St. Nicholas Day has come and gone, and I am realizing that the childhood of my girls is just as quickly slipping away. St. Nicholas still comes to our house on the morning of December 6th, and we wake up to chocolate coins in our shoes, along with candy canes for the tree, a new Christmas book to share, and specially made St. Nicholas cookies. Tony and I have been making these cookies for 20 years, since Becca was a baby, and we aren’t about to stop now. The ritual of the day is what is important.
Yet I can tell that time marches on. Instead of reading the new Christmas books as a family all curled up on the couch, they were read silently over breakfast, one person at a time. The box of Christmas books, always brought out the weekend after Thanksgiving, sits forlornly in the corner by the couch, missing the sound of little girls’ laughter. Who wouldn’t delight in Tom and Lucy’s Christmas, an English story filled with lovely pictures of faces happy in the light of Christmas morning? The Mitten was always a favorite because we could tell by the pictures what animal would next crawl into the mitten to stay warm. And one of my personal favorites, A Small Miracle, is about a Nativity Set that comes alive to help an old woman enjoy Christmas. I miss the snuggle time, the forget the rest of the day time, and the lets be present to each other time. The girls are all working toward the end of a semester in school, facing finals and papers, and without a lot of coaxing, don’t find the time to sit quietly for a story.
But I am not giving up. Sarah did read me a story the other night, and I read her one, and we sat on the couch in the warmth of each other, smiling at grumpy Jonathan Toomey the woodcarver. And tears filled my eyes as I read Why Christmas Trees aren’t Perfect.
I won’t let this time go quietly into the night. I will carry the books to my girls if I need to, and read to them over cereal bowls and dinner plates if that is what it takes to bring a little holiday cheer into the house. As I eat my St. Nicholas cookie, I am grateful for all the efforts we have put forth to make St. Nicholas Day come alive for our girls. And even if they can’t or don’t fully participate in the ways they used to, I know that the ritual of the day still brings a rhythm to their lives, a rhythm that reminds them of family time, of being present to each other time. It is a ritual that will continue in their own houses someday and they will be moms, watching their own children grow way too quickly.
So over a cup of tea with a St. Nicholas cookie in hand, I browse the box of books and read a story to myself, and imagine little loves all bundled in around me, and I smile at the simple memory that reminds me that even though there is no longer the Santa secret to keep, there is something comforting in the knowledge that there will be cookies, candy canes, and chocolate coins on St. Nicholas Day. And if we are lucky, there will be the sharing of a good book, the whole family curled up on the couch, not on my lap anymore, thank goodness, but shoulder to shoulder, feeling the magic of the season come alive. God is truly present in these moments of our lives.