When the kids started leaving home and making homes of their own, a friend said not to view it as a loss but as a shifting of gears. “Now you anticipate the times when they return.”

‘Tis the season of anticipation.

It is an anticipation marked by a flurry of activity in the kitchen with the scents and aromas of holiday baking emanating from the oven. Melted chocolate drips down the side of a pan on the stove and dirty cookie sheets fill the sink.

Anticipation hovers throughout the washing and drying of sheets, making beds, plumping pillows and throwing open a window to freshen a room. Anticipation heightens as the house is set in order, candles are lit and the glassware sparkles.  

By planes, trains and automobiles, they will suddenly converge. Anticipation will burst into laughter and shouting, a neurotic dog barking, suitcases lugged through the front door and up the stairs.

The kitchen that was cleaned reverts to a state of disarray. The once tidy bedrooms bulge with luggage, computer bags, rumpled beds, instant piles of laundry and coats and scarves draped over chairs.

Wet towels hang from every bar and hook in the bathroom and bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash ring the perimeter of the tub.

My parents used to say when our brood descended for a holiday it took them 24 hours to get used to the commotion we brought with us and another 24 hours to get used to the quiet when we left.

Whether it is the home where we live now, or the home where we grew up, we anticipate the arrival -- from the click of the blinker as it signals a turn, to the jostle of the car as it pulls into the drive and rolls to a stop.

For those separated by continents and seas, anticipation is relentless. Our daughter, whose husband is in Iraq, might as well have a countdown calendar stapled to her shirt.

He anticipates too, from a tent outside of Baghdad with a 99-cent glittering Christmas tree that arrived by mail. Like every soldier, he anticipates home one day at a time.

During World War II, Bing Crosby crooned “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” into a holiday classic. Six decades later the lyrics still capture the heart of longing.

I’ll be home for Christmas, you can plan on me. Please have snow and mistletoe, and presents on the tree. Christmas Eve will find me where the lovelight gleams. I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.

A child’s anticipation at this time of year borders on agony. Children are tormented by the sheer volume of possibilities. What boy or girl hasn’t anticipated Christmas morning with such intensity as to hear sleigh bells outside the window and reindeer on the roof?

During Advent, Catholics pray the Christmas Novena, also known as the Christmas Anticipation Prayer. Moravians host the Love Feast, a meal of anticipation.

Anticipation is woven throughout the Christmas story. The Magi doggedly anticipated the birth of Christ by charting the paths of the stars and trekking across the desert. Mary and Joseph had nine bewildering months in which to anticipate a mysterious birth.

We all grouse and grumble that Christmas begins earlier and earlier each year, and it surely does. But in another light, maybe we’re just lengthening the season of anticipation.  

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 1 Corinthians 1:7 NIV


Lori Borgman is author of "I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids," "Pass the Faith, Please" and "All Stressed Up and No Place To Go." Her weekly column, distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Service, covers family life issues, values and contemporary culture with insight and a touch of humor.

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