Today was a day of transformations. We put an entire chicken, a bit of beef with the bone, two stalks of celery, a few carrots, some fresh parsley, sage, and thyme into a pot with water and let heat and time transform it into a deceptively clear stock. It had a yellowish tint to it, and there were globules of grease floating on the time, but by the time we’d poured it through a fine sieve several times, it looked like it should have little to no taste. Warmed water. And yet…
In the afternoon, we took a plain Fraser fir and transformed it into the magic of the season. Lights, baubles, ornaments, angels.
Babcia, L, and K put on some carols — Frank Sinatra to begin with — and hung gingerbread houses and hearts, beads, and lights, and I piddled about the yard. Sort of sad: it’s always a highlight for me to decorate the tree, and I regret missing out on it. I always feel like a kid hanging the ornaments, sipping on something warm.
And in a way, I am a kid at it: only in the last few years could I stop saying, “I’ve celebrated Christmas so few times I could count them on my fingers.” Yet not having participated in the holiday growing up makes it all the more meaningful for me now.
Yet early celebrations with K always lacked a little something. For me as a non-believer, Christmas was a season of pleasantries and friends, but little else. “If only people would be this nice to each other throughout the entire year,” I would say, and that was about the extent of the spirituality of Christmas for me: a longing for a kind of utopia that I thought briefly and imperfectly existed during the Christmas season.
Having converted to Catholicism, though, adds a new meaning to Christmas. Properly speaking and on a most basic level, it adds new vocabulary: Advent, St. Stephen’s Day, Vigil Mass. Of course there’s more to it than just vocabulary, but I’m still a bit ill-at-ease to discuss it further. Old faithless comforts (or in this case, lack of comfort) disappear slowly.
So that particular transformation is still incomplete. The water is still boiling around me, still drawing out the essences, purifying. It’s one more thing I’m waiting on in Advent.