It’s About the Presence


Christmas candleSeveral weekends ago my mother-in-law’s famous pepparkakors made their appearance on the dining table, and they were as yummy as ever. The recipe for these traditional Swedish spice cookies that we use in our family is over 100 years old and immigrated from Sweden with my mother-in-law’s family. Immigration is a very good thing.
For us, the appearance of these cookies marks the beginning of the holiday season, although I must confess to listening to Christmas music in the car over the last two weeks—because I am ready for the holidays.

I am not ready for shopping. Frankly, I’d rather not shop; I’d rather not have to tell people what to get me for Christmas. I’d rather dispense completely with the commercial part of the holidays (although I do still enjoy toy shopping). What I want is time—time with family and friends. Time laughing around a dinner table, telling old stories and creating new ones. I want to decorate a tree, to fill the kitchen with the aromas of a baking ham or pumpkin. I want to slow down and inhale deeply the scents cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, friendship, family, hugs and warmth.

I want to snuggle under a hand-made afghan as I knit a pair of socks for my daughter or a scarf for my sister. I want to enjoy a cup of hot cocoa and savor Alstair Sims’ performance as Ebenezer Scrooge in all of its black and white glory.

I want to sit on the floor of the living room, in front of the fireplace and play cards or scrabble with my husband and daughter, with Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Diana Krall gently crooning Christmas classics in the background.

I want to enjoy a quiet snowfall on an evening when I have no need to travel and let the falling snow quiet my soul as it dampens the noise of the world around me.

These are the holidays that I long for—not shopping or midnight madness sales or black Fridays. That is not what the holidays should be about. All of that noise is what we do when we are afraid to take the time just to slow down and be. But there really isn’t all that much time when everything is said and done, and I don’t want to spend my time in a harried parking lot at a superstore. I want to just slow down and be with my family.

Presents don’t matter. Presence does.

This holiday I really want to make a habit of being truly present for those whom I love: Turning off the computer, the TV, setting down the smart phone. I want to write long letters and put personal notes in my Christmas cards.

And I want to sit at the table with my mother-in-law and eat lots and lots of pepparkakors.

©2013 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

3 thoughts on “It’s About the Presence

  1. Michele you have captured exactly what I feel, too. The older I get the more I know that it’s time spent with loved ones that really matter. Finding serenity in the quiet of morning, the joy of a child’s laugh…

  2. Oh, yes. Yes to all of this. I’ve been reluctant to get a Christmas tree not because I don’t like Christmas trees; indeed, their light is a source of joy in darkness of winter. I just don’t want my son falling into believing that the commercials we hear on the radio have anything to do with the real joy of this season.

  3. The Christmas Tree doesn’t bother me. I love sitting quietly with my daughter looking at the lights, sipping hot chocolate–it provides an opportunity to send quiet time together. But the stories of fights at stores over Thanksgiving absolutely disgust me.

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