Monthly Archives: December 2012

An EnLIGHTened Glow

It was Christmas Eve. We listened from our row, looking down at my 9-year-old son, who was seated at the end on the aisle. Rather than the traditional candle that we usually lit for the singing of Silent Night, we’d been handed glow sticks as we entered church. Our Pastor shared their symbolism: instead of blowing them out at the end of the service, as in years past, we would take the glow sticks with us. They were a way for us to carry the Light of Jesus’ birth into the night, into our homes, into our world. They could not be extinguished. We would break our glow sticks and stand, row by row, light by light, so that the room would grow brighter and brighter. He also gave us a heads up: they were not easy to break.

So there sat my son. When the time came for us to break our sticks and stand, he remained in his seat, grabbed his glow stick with two hands and twisted. He gripped. He pulled. He turned. He stepped on. Try as he might, he could not break that stick. I bent down next to him and showed him how to position his hands in a way that might be helpful. No luck. Two ushers—one who is a dear friend—stopped to assist. He declined the help. He sat there, determined to do it alone. No matter what, he was going to break that stick on his own. And so my mom, husband, 4-year-old and I stood and sang a beautiful rendition of Silent Night as my 9-year-old sat, hunched and focused, over the glow stick.

The song was over. A couple of upbeat, festive carols followed. We made our way out to visit with friends. He stood there with his unbroken glow sticks —he’d been given two—as we joked with his Pastor about the difficulty of the task and the strength needed to break them.

We walked outside, ready to go home. My 9-year-old and I went to the curb. I put one of my feet on the end of the glow stick, while he stepped on the other end. Crack. It finally worked. Illumination. We repeated for the other one. Both sticks glowed in the late-afternoon sky.

And that’s when the tears started.

“But I missed it,” he cried. “It’s not fair. I missed it all.”

I thought for a moment about myself, about the feelings I wake up with on December 26th. When the Christmas carols suddenly stop playing on the radio. When the wrapping paper is 75% off.

About the feelings that come when it’s over.

“But you didn’t miss any of it, really,” I told him. “Remember what our Pastor said? That’s why we got glow sticks. They’re to take with us. To help celebrate Jesus’ birthday. To light up our homes. To light up the world.”

So we went home for a night of very little sleep, but an abundance of wonder.

Now some of that 75%-off wrapping paper is sold out.

My mom has returned to California.

The glow sticks have faded.

But as we turn the page on a new calendar, to a new year, we still carry that Light with us.

The Light of Jesus’ birth.

The one that continues to fill the night, fill our homes, fill our world.

The one that —despite a New Year and some things, indeed, being over—can’t be extinguished.

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The Half-Marathon That Was

I’m about to miss my second official, organized running event of the year. The first was last month’s NYC Marathon. The second will be this weekend’s Holiday Half in Portland (upon running four laps around Central Park, my knee decided it needed a break and I have —somewhat grumpily and begrudgingly—obliged). The disappointment is great. In fact, in some respects, it’s even more disappointing than the Marathon experience. Because ten years after running our first (and only) Half-Marathon together, the Hagenbuch sisters were going commemorate the occasion by completing the Holiday Half together.

We read that the Holiday Half is a jovial, festive event. Runners dress up in their best holiday garb. Carolers line the course. It’s to be her fourth official Half-Marathon this year. We imagined that it would be a fun, triumphant way to round out the year. But as bummed as I am about not doing it with her, there is one thing I’m taking solace in.

It’s the morning of November 4th. That bright, clear, crisp day in New York City. She woke up bright and early with me and we walked down to Central Park. We marveled at the people from all over the world. We giggled. We chatted. We ran. She was by my side as we did a 6.1 mile lap and then extended it to take in more of the excitement and energy. At the start of our second lap together, we toasted our mini water bottles and ate GU. Later, she bought a warm pretzel from a vendor so I could have some type of nourishment as I continued on. She hung out while I made a porta-potty stop. She never stopped smiling. She never stopped encouraging. Her presence and generous spirit gave me strength. She embraced my goal and helped me achieve it. We did a total of about 13 miles together. She was my friend, teammate, coach, cheerleader. She was the little sister who felt like the big sister.

So this year, I’ll have to take comfort in the fact that on that clear, crisp November day, the Hagenbuch sisters unofficially completed a Half-Marathon side-by-side in Central Park.

And while visions of us running together dressed like candy canes or elves will continue to dance in my head, this weekend they won’t come to fruition.

Run sister run.

I’ll catch you in the New Year.

Love—And The Sound Of Voices—Never Fails

Three voices.

Two phone calls.

One visit.

One call lasted one minute, seven seconds; the other eleven minutes, twenty-two seconds; the visit five days.

This week, I got to say “I love you” to three of the girls I grew up with.

And they said it to me.

It was simple, yet powerful.

It lifted me up.

We’ve gone through just about everything together: playground feuds, slumber parties, bra freezing.

Graduations. Weddings. Births. Deaths.

Miles now separate some of us, but we remain close.

Last night, as I hung up the phone with one and emerged from the quiet hiding place of the garage, I was struck by a sense of thankfulness.

To have heard their voices. To have shared conversations.

One was brief. One carried on for hours and days.

Not text messages. Not emails.

Voices.

They brought to mind all the things we’ve been through; and the things we have yet to experience.

Their voices and the conversations connected us.

They brought a sense of togetherness.

Near and far. High and low.

That feeling of thankfulness has carried me into the weekend.

I’m thankful for our long, rich history and for all the times we’ve shared fits of giggles and buckets of tears.

For the chance to say —and hear—”I love you.”

For the sound of their voices.

And for love—and friendship—that doesn’t end.