Lights twinkled inside and outside homes in celebration. People drank their coffee slowly in the morning and children eagerly descended from their bedrooms to see if Santa had visited.
There were tables set and family meals and gatherings and religious worship and gratitude for a savior’s presence in so many lives.
In my world, it was none of the above.
There was coffee, yes, and packing boxes. We carried so much garbage to the curb, garbage from 10+ years of living in one place, the children’s table which the children have outgrown and the black bookcase which I always hated.
So it was mostly quiet in my world as everyone around me took a break from life-as-usual and celebrated something that comes only once a year. More stores and restaurants were closed than on any other day in the year.
I boarded a plane for Connecticut to work with a lovely client and had those conversations that happen in airports because you’re all thrown together and you have similarities for this moment only. Those kind smiles as you sit in the gate area and wonder what the man’s story is sitting next to you – where were his grandchildren, his spouse, his family?
Today is just another day and the silence has lifted. Services are over. It’s life as usual. But what are we meant to learn from the silence?
All the Jewish people I know took off for parents not quite so quiet. My ex took the children to a water park with a bunch of there families and a kosher cake for his birthday. Some people are skiing, others flew south. We flee our homes for other destinations to take advantage of the break in our everyday routines. What I wonder is if doing so obscures the quiet so we never actually get to hear it?
Last night, as Noreen drove me through the town of Greenwich, we cascaded down a usually busy street as if sledding down a hill as children – utter quiet except for the wind against our faces. The seat warmers were on. Dusk was falling like a curtain around us. Streetlights twinkled like the Christmas decorations on so many houses.
“Usually this would be teeming with people,” she said. And it wasn’t, because finally, people stopped to breathe.
The quiet makes everything we do bearable. If we never hear it, if we never appreciate it, if we flee it the minute it descends, we are doing ourselves a disservice.
Once, I celebrated Christmas with a college boyfriend. I was the first one up that morning in his New Jersey home, long before his mother played Perry Como over the intercom to rouse her family to Christmas.
The 2 o’clock table was set with gold-rimmed china, a Christmas tree decorating the center of each plate. There was a stocking for me with my name in glitter which I probably still have in a scrapbook somewhere in the basement of this home I am leaving.
The house then was quiet, too. Whole rooms carried it like an infant in arms. It was a day of doing nothing except appreciating this moment, this existence, this presence.
We need more days like that. Days when we embrace the void and express our gratitude for the break in the pace and the reverence in the air.