Growing up, I am blessed to say that I was given a beautiful gift of understanding anticipation. My mom seemed to truly come into herself during advent season. Each day had purpose and though we had little, what we had seemed ample and even brimming desiring to be shared. Handcrafted ornaments and embroidery projects, while seeming to encapsulate every spare minute, also engendered joyous expectation of their future reception. A new tin of old fashioned candy, a bowl of mixed unshelled nuts, the smell of homemade fudge and fresh bread, days spent rediscovering our favorites and making memories together.
One of my first lucid memories of anticipation took place one advent when I was about 6 years old. Having spent the afternoon with my older brother, my mom had taken the opportunity to do a bit of Christmas shopping. With a gleam in her eye and an urging that she not be disturbed, she turned to carry the small bag of purchases into the bedroom. So curious, I strained to peek in the crevice of the door only to see light dancing around the room. What could it be that could catch and reflect the light so beautifully? Sounds of a flurry of paper and tape and the sparkling stopped.
Then suddenly music played, the tune of the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, setting my mind racing again. I had seen a performance of the Nutcracker just days before on a televised Christmas Special and instantly it filled my imagination that I too might dance one day. That night and every one after it that season, I spent dreaming and anticipating what could be in those two little boxes underneath the tree.
Although I had accumulated many ideas as to what they enclosed, I was not prepared for the fullness of the gift itself. Christmas morning came and I ran into my mother’s bedroom hardly containing my joy to find my mom already awake enjoying a quiet moment and a cup of coffee. There she sat, proudly wearing my gift to her, brightly colored floral embroidery work I had wrought on the neckline of a shirt she had sewn. She too had anticipated this moment and hurriedly went to retrieve the last gifts under the tree. Slowly I unwrapped the small rhinestone tiara, intended to commemorate first place in the local beauty pageant held just months earlier. As the community was not wealthy, and I was in the youngest division they had presented me with flowers instead.
Placing it atop my head, and looking up at my mom tears of joy filled her eyes. She was looking at me as only a mother could, as she had in all of my 7 years prior, with profound love seeing the beauty within. I could not hold it in any longer, I had to tell her of my stolen glance, of the light dancing, and of the nights of endless anticipation. But what of the music, what of the familiar song I had heard? With a furrowed brow but smiling she responded, “Open your next gift Elizabeth and you shall see!” Peeling the paper away, I uncovered to my delight a music box- marvelously gilded with fleur de lei and a ballerina performing her pirouettes flawlessly.
So much thought and love put into each of these gifts and yet my mother’s gift went beyond that which was wrapped. She had given the gift of anticipation not just for what I would open that day but for who I could be. Years later, I did take dance classes and remember clearly the day I advanced to Pointe and tried on my first toe shoes. While I never became a gifted ballerina, I learned the connection between anticipation, hope, patience and the experience of beauty and gift of a mother’s love.