When we lived in Britain, where Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated, Christmas was suddenly flung onto the landscape, as days grew short and dark. While we Yanks were contemplating turkey and mash and our own brand of footie, the English were gearing up for December.
Now, on the first of that month, the first Sunday in Advent has come and gone. One blue candle was lit last night, prayers were said, readings digested. I have plenty of which to be thankful, but Advent is different than Thanksgiving, and while Silicon Valley isn’t as cold and dark as Yorkshire, England, Advent is still Advent, regardless of the continent or time zone.
I spent last weekend with family; Dad is so-so, but was well enough to carve the turkey, with my late grandmother’s ancient electric carving knife of all things. I wasn’t sure if he’d manage that task, but as Mom scooped stuffing from the bird, Dad waited patiently. Of course my parents stuff their turkey; Dad likes the old ways. It will probably take him on his death bed to let anyone carve the bird he’d been roasting since the crack of dawn.
Buttercup is still Buttercup; I took her on a few walks, and we chatted with a ninety-one-year-old World War II vet, who thought both Buttercup and I were cute girls. I asked him where he’d served, for my husband’s dad had been stationed in Germany. This chap, whose name I didn’t get, was in India and Burma. He was thankful for Harry Truman, who was not a college graduate, he noted. Truman dropped the bombs, ending the conflict. This man said the worst two words a soldier can hear were Fix bayonets. He teared up as he spoke, which made me thankful he could speak of this at all; he would have been sent to mainland Japan if not for Truman, and he didn’t need to tell me what that meant. No idea why I ran into him, other than to hear his experience, which will add in some manner to The Hawk. And for Buttercup to be admired, of course.
Now all those moments are memories, which is what will happen to the fabric I cut later today; I’m making a Christmas lap quilt for a chap not as old as that WWII vet, but indeed an older fellow who my husband and I see many Sundays at our fave breakfast spot. This man is moving east, to live near his son, and my husband mentioned to me that he might need a lap quilt. Somehow I’ll squeeze in one more quilt before 2015 rolls around. Plus it gave me an excuse to hit the weekend sales.
But all of this has little bearing on Advent, other than making up the world in which Christ came to save. Now turkeys and golden leaves are sent to the back burner, while a different season emerges. But Advent isn’t a time of shopping or baking or wrapping presents. It’s about considering a gift more precious than any we can conjure. I don’t know how it fits in with what Truman did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Dad’s cancer battle, Buttercup, or that vet, who didn’t know why he was telling me all these things, but still he spoke, that he didn’t want to kill Japanese men, women, and children with a bayonet. He never feared for his life, only for what soldiers were to do to others.
Then we chatted about how his German father landed in San Francisco; in 1914, the man’s German ship was refused coal at a coaling station in Hawaii. The US was a neutral nation in the First World War, so that man used $28 to take a different ship to America, landing in San Fran with fifty cents in his pocket. He wandered around, until he found a hofbrau, where he met that WWII’s vet’s mum. And one hundred years later their son of ninety-one years stood talking to me, on the eve of Advent 2014, while Buttercup sniffed the road, getting me tangled in her long purple lead.
Advent is about celebrating life. Living from day to day with joy and gratitude is the same. May this Advent season bring you an eased heart. Now, time to cut fabrics…