By George Valadie
To Christ’s home, where His Father has many rooms
Wishing you a belated Happy New Year! Depending on printing and publication schedules, this newspaper is likely hitting your coffee table in mid-January with 2022 well on its way to wherever it will take us.
To better places, I pray.
Not even a month ago, supply-shortage frustrations aside, we were all aglow celebrating with family and friends, remembering the birth of the King for whom so many had waited so long.
Nancy had our home decorated to perfection. Through the years, she’s accumulated some really distinctive pieces of holiday décor. Some recall Santa and the magical; others honor the Christ Child and the miraculous.
We looked good.
It’s gone now—most of it anyway. We’re still fighting over how long the tree gets to stay up. But the rest has returned to their respective crates, banished to the garage for their 11-month hibernation while we resume life’s everyday.
We’re both vaccinated and boostered, and I actually had COVID sometime in there, so we threw caution to the wind, attended some holiday parties, and even opened our home to host multiple gatherings. Dear friends and family coming together to do what we hadn’t done in much too long.
And now, as we hunker down for the short days and long nights of winter, I realized the obvious: when we packed up Christmas, out with it went all the anticipation and the aromas that had been wafting through our house.
It’s inevitable. As we generally do this time of year, we’ve moved on to a new year but an old life. We’re back to our normal routines, our typical décor, our low-carb diets.
That realization got me to thinking about Mary and Joseph and what it must have been like for the three of them to “move on.” Almost a month out from their big day, little one in tow, what was their everyday looking like?
No way their daily lives as a threesome could have been as auspicious as the beginning. We had a few family members come visit the hospital, but how do you come down from the sort of awe that results when angels and kings come to see your new arrival?
Later, back at home, we can all recall that moment we realized it was just us: mom and dad and baby. And not a one of us had a clue. Surely this teenager and her carpenter felt the same.
It feels like eons since we had a little one in our house. And most of it was a blur when it happened so I googled “what to expect from a newborn.” My thanks to two experts who reminded me how little ones most commonly progress.
“After nine months of anticipating, that sweet-smelling bundle of cuteness is in your arms.”
Sweet smelling unless you give birth in a barn surrounded by pigs and cows and poop and whatever manner of creature sought refuge there from the winter’s night.
“Perhaps you didn’t expect him to be puffy-eyed and wrinkled with a bit of a conehead, but it makes sense considering his nine-month stay (afloat) and the tight squeeze . . .”
Yeah, and throw in the fact Joseph made me ride a donkey for 90 miles right at the end there. It’s a wonder our boy looks human at all.
“During the first week, your baby will seem very sleepy. Long stretches of pronounced drowsiness are to be expected.”
Probably true except for the carol singing and all the visitors—shepherds and wise men and the kid with the drum. I appreciate your coming, I really do, but we’re tired.
“If you’re having trouble keeping up with his insatiable appetite, check in with your pediatrician.”
You nailed that right. Well, except for the doctor part. Turns out there aren’t any available when you take an unexpected seven-day donkey ride to Egypt. Bouncing and bumping apparently makes a kid hungry . . . because he sure couldn’t sleep any.
I once described Mary on her journey to Bethlehem as likely being “glowing but grouchy.” Imagine when her husband told her they had another trip to make. Normal new moms are “exhausted and exasperated” on a good day. A donkey ride of any distance likely didn’t make it any better.
“It may not seem like your baby is doing much of anything these days . . . but he’s using his brain plenty, intently watching his surroundings . . . your baby is ready for more complex shapes as the ability to focus improves.”
Well, he is Jesus after all. The Son of God. I’m still not at all sure what that means. As I recall, not much explanation came with the news. What does He see? What can He see? We’re in flight for our very lives; is it possible He already understands that evil exists in the world?
Or is he just my little boy?
“Of course when he’s not in the mood to play, he might be in the mood to cry (and cry).”
Well, we’ve had no shortage of that. I’m hoping it’s just the typical baby kind of tears . . . not the “I-can-already-see-how-my-life-will-end” kind.
“When taking note of your little one’s weight, stop yourself from comparing it to your BFF’s or your cousin’s baby.”
My cousin. Oh, yeah, I wonder how they’re doing. Would have been nice to have family around. I wonder if my son will meet her son. I wonder if he’ll have a normal life. I wonder if we’ll ever get to go home again.
Dearest Mary—Yes, he will meet him. No, his life won’t be at all normal. And isn’t that the question we all ask ourselves . . .
I wonder if we’ll ever get to go home again.
It occurs to me that maybe that’s what 2022 is supposed to be about. Getting home. His home. Your home. Our home. The home where His Father has many rooms.
His cousin may have said it best. Or at least he said it simplest: “Whoever has two cloaks should share with the person who has none. And whoever has food should do likewise.”
Happy New Year! May 2022 be better, different, safer, and a step toward finding our way home.
Dear God—It’s not like there aren’t plenty of resolutions we might consider. May we choose wisely. Amen.
George Valadie resides in Chattanooga and is a parishioner at St. Stephen Church.