They’re sitting around in a mock-meeting. Mr. stuffy faced egg-headed rooster, all prudish with his seriously disapproving pursed lips. Hard to take him seriously with the big red tuft on his head. There is the giddy headed frog, silly fellow’s constantly falling over himself in giggles. I want what he’s on! Five eagerly waving reindeer popped out the other day. They bore a general conviviality that had me on the lookout for exciting company. Every day of Advent brings with it another little surprise, another delightful creation with thoughtful little details.
As wonderful as the tradition of Advent calendars is, it is a tonne of work thinking up and collecting meaningful things to fill 24 little pouches for the 24 days before Christmas. I’ve been shirking my way through this task, cutting corners turning to ready-made ones. Hiding behind the stress of the chores of preparations that lead up to the perfect Christmas celebration.
The tradition has caught on in this house despite us lazy adults, with the children filling in where the adults left off. We, spoilt parents, have got a special spread of Advent Calendars this year – a high-tech variety of Python programmed, love-filled messages that pop up every day, building up into a cleverly crafted Christmas poem.
On the first day of Christmas, the computer lit up with Once upon a time there lived a dad.
Day 2, he was never mad.
Day 3 it said, he had a lot of patience.
On day 4 ..and never missed any of our occasions.
My calendar, was more the good old fashioned, low-tech hand crafted kind. Collecting used cases from Kinder surprise eggs to craft prudish roosters from. Pouches were interspersed with earrings in my fav colour, necklaces beaded and fitted to size. The occasional poem or hand-made card for variety, a stout wooden star that promised to love me to the moon and back.
My children’s weekly schedule is just as challenging as mine. Yet my daughter makes quiet observations and executes on them, noting attentively that I could do with a new hair clip, or a custom made armband with manually twisted patterns. And as she’s squirrelling away each ready item, toiling at the wrapping and numbering, my son’s honing his programming skills to have the automated calendar running and bug free in time for the beginning of Advent. And me…I’m just making my excuses to myself. In the days when I did take the effort, I recall the joy there was in lighting up faces every day with another door opening, another pouch revealing precious treats. As much pleasure as there is in giving, so also are there gentle pangs of disappointment sometimes. A secret in the trade of giving is to be rewarded by appreciation. Some days all calendars get overlooked in the grind of routine, pouches get forgotten, doors go unopened. I know from experience how that feels. When days like those come, as they always do, the children hide their hurt much better than I ever could, with a benevolent resolve to give happiness.
I love my giddy headed frog from day 10 most of all. In a cross legged precarious perch, he’s sculpted from clay with ears pinched into place and big beady eyes. He followed our escalation with the same comical amusement that he observes everything. We were having a row over her behaviour in a certain situation - I said I disapproved, finally un-muting my internal dialogue over an issue that had been nagging for some days. She made clear her indifference. Sparks flew. We raged at each other about the usual things of respect and value that adolescents and adults seem to define and interpret ever differently. The words came out strong, giving my anger a degree of validity it could never merit. And then I said it. I said ‘I don’t want your damn presents. I want you to care about what really matters to me’.
The night passed, wrought with actions than couldn’t get undone, words that couldn’t get unspoken. There were 3 more days to Christmas and the spirit of the season had right well been butchered. After every miserable night and every glorious night - after every single night dawns a whole new day. The computer screen had already lit up - it read He helps us stay strong, and tells us when we are wrong. Tip toeing into her room the next morning, I tried not to wake her, lest she order me out again. There was nothing more to offer this morning than the feeble apology from the night before. She stirred and awoke nevertheless, realising I was there. Half asleep she reached out for my hand and smiled. Comfortingly unhesitant.
Later that day while Mr. Frog grinned on, she handed me the pouch for day 21 all ripped up and mended, the little treasure safe inside. It was the same for each subsequent day, pouches ripped and mended. Treasure safe inside. The spirit of Christmas had been ripped and mended. Love, forgiveness, generosity, they were all safe inside.
Let the pouches go on forever. Let it not stop when Christmas comes.