There is a moment every year
on the night before Christmas Eve –
after I have written and sent the last message
to the distant, the remembered, not present,
and the last Christmas cards have arrived.
I have finished the rounds,
to give and collect the presents.
There is a moment of emptiness, then –
as I look at the mess in the kitchen,
after I have sent that most heartfelt greeting
out in the cold, to faraway homes –
when I have no more reason to post anything online,
and I close the door for all except the close family
until the holy day has passed,
and I allow myself to wonder:
how are they? has anything changed?
will they remember me?
where, and when, and why –
and who – have we been, these few days?
If I happen to make it in time –
the time for candles and carols, for food and gifts –
this is how it will be on Christmas Eve:
There will be a clean table in the kitchen,
with a clean, mangled linen cloth,
red, blue, white or natural in colour,
and on the blue sideboard –
clad in bright red cotton print
with tiny flowers, fir and pear trees,
partridges, deer and holly,
I have put the holiday plates and bowls,
the gaudy, gold-rimmed Santa set of china.
The living-room is guarded by a glimmering fake fir,
which is guarded by a black and lively cat,
whom I have to watch,
so he won’t climb and fell the fir tree,
or try to bite the lights –
or pick a fight with all the lovely garlands!
In many windows are electric Advent lights,
but in the garden, I think nothing here will shine at all.
Of course the neighbours have those garden chains
with tiny lamps in every bush and tree,
and welcome many relatives and friends
with flaming fire and guiding torches in the snow.
I think my visitors will be very few this year…
So maybe I will have a few spare moments;
a minute, or an hour – maybe two,
when I will think of you, and wonder –
without the stress and noise
from some conflicting modes of celebration,
without confusion, and quite sane
but with some little sadness left
from such uncertainty and weakness that I sense –
well, hear my thoughts:
what do you want? what do you need?
what did you hope for,
and what did you get this year?
To write these things down gave me guilty feelings.
Why count just what one gets? Why ask about it?
Is this in fact my own sad point of view: what can I gain?
Surely we are told, that Christmas means to give?
Should I then preach unselfishness to you instead,
as if you are like a little selfish child
who takes the right to love and property for granted
and does not see what others need?
Is it more appropriate to ask:
what did you do for others, now, this very year?
did you give out in abundance; offered freely?
did you give them anything at all –
the poor, the hungry, prisoners, and patients?
No! As I trust you, and your love for others,
I must never ask if you have done enough.
Yes! Sure. You give. You give for nothing.
And so do I. We do. It is called love.
Love is not a business with a binding contract,
not a competition with fair rules,
and not a fun game with one single winner.
Love is not an art, or an abstraction –
it is just the best that we can do!
Merry Christmas – to all of you!
4 December 2006.