Be the Light by Nancy Mugele

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Not a creature is stirring at my house after a heartwarming week of laughter and loud conversations amidst endless loads of dishes and laundry. The last bird flew out this morning and truth be told I am feeling a bit melancholy. For 30 years of married life Jim and I always hoped to raise children of character and integrity who would one day lead independent lives of purpose. Somehow we have managed to do just that – despite a few bumps and detours along the way.

Now, having our children pop in and out of our lives for precious bits of time is both awe-inspiring and bittersweet. The girls and I took our annual trip to NYC right before Christmas and enjoyed our day of sight-seeing, light-seeing and fun. Jenna, always a thoughtful gift giver, surprised me and Kelsy with tickets to see the Rockettes at Radio City. It was spectacular! James arrived this year with presents for everyone that he had made himself. Creative and thoughtful and totally surprising! I helped Kelsy by purchasing and wrapping a few of the gifts she gave to family members, but don’t tell anyone.

The chaos when they are all here with us in Chestertown is invigorating and I greatly enjoy sharing my love through cooking. (I would not mind help cleaning the kitchen once in a while though!) On Christmas Day Jim’s family arrived to help us celebrate and we had our traditional lasagna dinner.  Today, as I finish eating the leftovers and begin the holiday clean up, I do feel a little sad to be alone on the river. Fortunately, this is the season of lights so my house is brightly decorated even at mid-day. I know the lights are telling me to smile and find joy in the memories made this Christmas.

‘Tis the season for several religious celebrations where light is a central tenet. Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa all share a joyful feast with family and loved ones. Kwanzaa and Hanukkah include the lighting of candles on consecutive nights (Kwanzaa has 7 candles and Hanukkah has 9), while Christmas is the culmination of the weekly lighting of 4 Advent candles in December. Christmas also includes a decorated tree with lights. This year I received a gift of two bayberry candles from a former Kent School family and was introduced to their bayberry candle tradition. The legend is that if you burn your bayberry candle on Christmas or New Year’s Eve it will bring blessings of abundance in the coming year. I love candles and really appreciated this thoughtful and meaningful gift. We burned ours on Christmas night with all of our extended family present – hope it still works!

In The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare wrote: “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.” I have been thinking about these words all morning as I have been storing the Christmas china, washing stemware and vacuuming poinsettia leaves, while my Lodestone Holiday Hearth candle fills my senses with orange, ginger, and balsam. While I am not one for resolutions, in this quiet moment in my empty house, I have decided to be the light for others in the coming year and find ways to celebrate good deeds at my school and in my community. Will you join me?

And while my own children have returned to Baltimore, Nashville and Denver, I am so blessed to have 141 children who attend Kent School to fill my heart with light and good as we welcome the New Year this weekend. All the best in 2018!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

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