Sunday morning we sang Where the Light Begins (music by Susan LaBarr, text by Jan Richardson) (a pretty version to listen to here):
“Perhaps it does not begin,
Perhaps it is always.
Perhaps it takes a lifetime
“To open our eyes,
To learn to see
“The luminous line of the map in the dark,
The vigil flame in the house of the heart,
The love so searing we can’t keep from singing,
from crying out.
“Perhaps this day the light begins,
Perhaps this day the light begins in us,
We are where the light begins.
“Perhaps it does not begin,
Perhaps it is always.”
This is one of those songs, whose melody and words pierce the heart like an arrow. I sang it every day at home last week to learn it. Sometimes it takes me so long to learn music, but singing it every day moved me closer to meaning. And after singing it in choir amidst many voices, I carried around a lump in my throat all day.
Through the rest of that service,
Through the dash to Target to find large plates for sending cookies to school this week,
Through egg salad sandwiches,
Through ninety minutes of freezing fingers (I forgot my gloves at home) singing of Christmas in the center of town with enthusiastic friends,
Though mixing sugar cookie dough for tomorrow’s baking and baking off yesterday’s lemon short bread,
Through throwing together a quick supper,
And through lighting the candles for the first night of Hanukkah.
I called up the words of the blessing on my laptop so that I could help Julia read them. Every year by the eighth night she almost has the blessing memorized and every year we begin again by slow reading together on the first night.
I remember thinking that first year, the winter after David died—The shiksa mama lit the Hanukkah candles with her Chinese daughter. And the thought of that thought always makes me smile. Even then I knew it was ridiculous. The candles, the blessing, the holiday belonged to my family then and now no matter what. And I belonged to the family, those far flung cousins, who lit and light the Hanukkah candles every year. And that thought still brings tears to my eyes.
I have been moving through this holiday season with a measure of glee due in no small part to the VNM and that illusive element of slack that he appears to be picking up more and more often. I am almost embarrassed to admit to this lightness of being. Am I shallow to find so much joy in a good companion? Then, I remember that I can also heap credit onto the little boy who smiles and giggles and seems very interested in my colorful scarfs. I have been moving with a glee that seems to have completely forgotten the heaviness, the constant emptiness that usually lurks around some next corner to ambush me.
And ambush me, it did. It was a song bringing back holiday tears.
Whatever joy there is to this season, and there is a good deal of joy in a 3-month old grandson and a VNM, that joy adds another note to this season’s fine wine. A new flavor to the old brew. It does not replace all the notes of the last twelve Decembers or the less mindful joy of years before.
And what strikes me right now—three days after I started this writing and found I could not finish it—what strikes me is that for a number of years in my New Year’s resolutions, I included: Find comfort in dualities. This morning, on the shortest day of the year, I find that I am living into the question of dualities.
And, I need to admit, that I am very pleased with myself. Tears and all.
Chag Same’ach! And many blessings for a rich and joyful Yuletide!