From October, 2009 …

“Brooke, Mama has to go on a trip tomorrow.”

“You do?”

“Yes, honey, I do. I have to get on a plane and fly far away.”

“You do?”

“Yes, I do. I’m going to Texas.”

“You are?”

“Yes, I am. I have to go there to do some work.”

“You do?”

“Yes, love, I do. I will be there on Wednesday and Thursday. And then on Friday, I will come home.”

“That’s my red day.”

“Yes it is, sweetheart. Friday is your red day. Mama will be home on your red day.”

We go over it a few times – gone on Wednesday and Thursday, back on Friday. She seems to have it down. She is sitting on my lap. We are facing each other. I want to devour her, breathe her in, soak up every last bit of her Brooke-ness. But I don’t. I’ve learned to wait.

We sit quietly, but it’s a very different kind of silence than the one that we used to inhabit. She is processing something – the wheels are turning.

I picture her slowly, deliberately picking fruit, then trying to wrap her little arms around the harvest. It takes time. An apple falls. She drops one as she bends to retrieve the first. It is awkward to hold so many apples in such small arms, but I can’t offer help. Only she knows which fruit she wants to take and which she will choose to leave behind. All I can do is wait.

Finally, she will manage to offer up what she has gathered.

A question … articulated  … one … word … at … a … time.

Sweeter fruit than any I could have imagined.

“Can I come with you?”

– The Harvest, Diary, October, 2009

Screen shot 2013-12-04 at 5.05.13 AM

Three days ago

Every six months or so, I travel for business. I typically leave on a Wednesday and fly home on Friday morning.

I’ve learned that I need to wait until the night before to tell Brooke that I am going.

Last night, I told her that I’d be leaving today.

Over the years, the outward expression of her reactions to my travels has changed dramatically. (I don’t know about the inside. I hope someday she can tell me.) From no discernible reaction at all to asking if she could come with me in 2009 to last night, when she threw her arms around me, began to cry and said, “But I’ll miss you.”

I pulled her into me, closer and closer still until we’d filled each and every pocket of space between us, no matter how small. “I’ll miss you too,” I said. “So, so much.”

I told her that we would FaceTime – that we’d be able to see each other and do our sillies together. I would have sworn I’d seen the tiniest hint of a smile, but it was gone as quickly as it had come. A cloud had come over her face.

“But we don’t do the ornament stories without you,” she said. “We do them with you.”

The advent story books. The ones that, over the course of twenty-four days, tell the story of Jesus’s birth. The ones that we gather together as a family to read every night before bed, that the girls then take turns hanging on the tree. The time at the end of every day in December that I had, just three days ago, described as sacred. She felt it too.

“But we don’t do the ornament stories without you,” she said. “We do them with you.”

I proposed an idea, but told her that it would have to be okay with everyone else too.

We called Katie over. We asked if she’d be willing to wait until I got home to read the stories. The stinker would only agree once I’d promised that they could still take the gifts from their advent elves while I was gone. We had a deal. Luau was on board too. They would wait until I got home and we would catch up. We would read them together.


An advent elf

For years I wondered if Christmas meant anything to Brooke. If there was any point for her in all the fuss. If the traditions registered. If any of it meant anything to her at all.

It did. It always did. It all registered. It all mattered. It all had meaning. Even if I was too blind to see it.

So we will wait until Friday. We will read the stories together, as a family. Gathered together in the warm glow of the lights, the girls taking turns hanging them on the tree.

Because that is what we do. And what we do is sacred.

To all of us.

Pssst … Please read the links above in blue. They matter. A lot.

5 thoughts on “sacred

  1. I read your links…and it brought me hope….My little one just turned 3 and I don’t think she gets it at all….We do elf on the shelf, advent boxes, crafts every day, and she doesnt seem interested at all…so usually I just let her play and don’t even include her in the family activity….this totally changed my mind…even if she doesn’t want to participate, I’m going to do my best to get her to engage, even if its just a little bit in what the rest of my family is doing! Thanks for all the great posts!

  2. So you are a creature of “tradition” and so are your babies…makes for family, huh!
    I love you and the world you have carved out for yours.

  3. I’d really like to hear more about how you celebrate the holidays with your family. I’m trying to figure out how to give them meaning for Baguette. We aren’t particularly religious–church is not the right setting for Baguette right now–and I’m trying to develop an approach that works for us.

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