David Reynolds: The Holy Darkness

Sorry for being sentimental in this piece. But I’m sure you will give me a pass. After all, it is that time of the year when we look within ourselves and find our families. And we wrap our gifts with smiles. It’s Christmas.

Foolishly, some try to see more. They try to look inside the gift that was given to all of us. They try to unravel the great mystery of life. They try to explain the inexplicable.

It can’t be done. At least not by adults. We start down all sorts of theological paths and then we get confused and lose our way. We get lost because we are not children. We don’t accept simple, one word answers to the big question. However, children do. They accept Christmas.

If you are a kid then “Happy Holidays” leaves you as cold as the night air. It’s the seasonal version of “Have a Nice Day.” A nice thought, but no feeling. Kids know feelings.

Christmas is a feeling. One that can best be seen through the eyes of a child.

I have rounded out a team of five grandchildren, ages twelve to two: Jack, Will, Eleanor, Dylan and Sylvia. I do not know what is inside their heads. But they do. It’s the spirit of Christmas.

However, I am beginning to figure out the oldest. Jack is well on his way to joining another world. Our world. A world of doubters. Jack is becoming an Alfie, asking what is it all about.

But not the final four. They play the game of life one second at a time. And it works! For children, every season is a time to experience, from sadness to joy, just as it arrives. Their days are seized by each moment. And they plan for nothing.

That’s right. Ever notice that kids never plan? Every parent has, including those of kids shipped here to cross one of life’s bridges, the one we call college. They have learned from their kids that life is what happens when not making plans for college.

Kids see the Great Light unfiltered. Without a filter, love comes through to the present. It is all that matters to them. Their past is unknown; their future is unimportant.

There is a bond between kids and trust. Kids trust a world without warrantees or money back guarantees. They are puzzled by today’s fear of identity theft. How can anyone steal the identity of a child? When crossing the street these short people simply reach up for a hand. No questions asked. Just a hand. Just trust.

When they do have a question, kids stick to the basics. I get annoyed when adults demand all the answers. Believe it or not, there are some questions not answered by Google. Kids know that. They are content to stay clueless.

The reason? Kids have the world on a string. It’s a giant yo-yo. What goes out always come back. To give is to receive. It’s all on the same string. In a kids world, they take our love and give it back. No questions asked. Satisfaction guaranteed.

Yes, feelings are what really matter to those at the beginning of life. Why isn’t it so for those of us near the end of life?

I remember as a small boy that December was by far the longest month of the year. The waiting never seemed to end. Christmas never came soon enough. Finally, just before the big day, my Welsh grandfather, William Thomas, would tell me tall tales of Christmas. They could take place anywhere — from the coals fields of Pennsylvania to the back roads of Rockbridge. Imagination has no boundaries.

There is a tale I wish to share. It is from another Welshman named Thomas. His first name is Dylan, the same as my fourth grandchild. Again, I have tried to keep a family tradition alive, one that began fifty-seven years ago when Dylan Thomas wrote “A Child’s Christmas in Wales:” It concludes:

“Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang ‘Cherry Ripe,’ and another uncle sang ‘Drake’s Drum.’ It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird’s nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed.

“Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steadily falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed, I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.”

Sleep warm. Be kind. And be a child again.

Column by David Reynolds

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