Ben’s Box and November in Nebraska

It’s November 27th and it was 67 degrees when I went to the grocery store an hour ago. (I live in Nebraska). We’ve had high temperatures in the mid-sixties since Thanksgiving Day, four days ago. (I live in Nebraska). The weather has been beautiful. On Black Friday Mike and I took advantage of it and hung our (minimal) Christmas lights a whole week ahead of the beginning of Advent, because we live in Nebraska and who knew when we might have another day so nice for hanging lights?

Usually, hanging lights involves snot freezing as it drips from one’s nose when tipped upside down from the ladder. Usually, hanging the twinkling cheer involves fingers frozen stiff with cold and a face lacerated by leaves whipped up into mini-tornadoes while one stands defenseless atop a ladder. Not this year. I’m not complaining, except, it is a little weird. Shorts, flip-flops and Christmas tree displays go together in Florida maybe, but not here, except today. Today even that sight made sense in a very nonsensical way.

One of the errands I ran today was to mail a box to Benjamin, my youngest son. He lives in New York City and because he started a new job in October he has no vacation time and was not able to come home for Thanksgiving. For the same reason, he won’t be coming home for Christmas. The box I mailed holds a Christmas ornament for each year of his life so far. Every year since they were babies, I bought each of my sons a new ornament for our tree. My mother did the same for me and my brothers when we were little. When we left home, she sent the ornaments with us so we’d have a little bit of home on our Christmas trees even if we lived far away. I still have the little gingerbread house, and angel with orange fluffy hair and Raggedly Ann from the trees of my childhood.  This year Benjamin will have his jointed frog that he broke and secretly fixed with chewing gum and the Santa whose arms and legs move at the tug of a string, and a delicate carved wooden ornament in the shape of Nebraska tied with a red ribbon among twenty-some others.

Once I graduated from college  I spent most of my Christmases far away from home. My first husband and I were both pastors. We served churches in Kentucky, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan and since churches generally expect their pastor(s) to be present for Christmas Eve at least, getting home to Nebraska for the holidays wasn’t usually feasible. Once in a while my parents came to where we were for the holidays, but mostly we created traditions of our own with our boys and talked with my family by phone late in the day on Christmas.

That the day would come when my own children might not be home for the holidays is something I always anticipated. That  we would not always be in the same place, enjoying the same glittering tree was inherent in my buying ornaments for them to “take with them someday.” But, knowing the day would come is not the same as living that day. Dropping off that box today I felt my heart. It ripped a little bit inside my chest as I gave the woman Ben’s address.

This five day streak of near record breaking warmth in Nebraska in November just doesn’t seem right. Neither does sending Ben his box. I’m not complaining exactly, but it is a little weird.