Our lights are up on the house, the rooms are decorated with memories and flair from the past. Music sounds throughout the house, cookies are in the oven, and the tree will be up soon. All part and parcel of the holidays here.
The elusive “Christmas Spirit” that people talk of comes to me in spurts – always has. One day it’s not there, then I turn around and suddenly feel that lightness in my chest. My breath quickens and the world seems a bit brighter. I don’t always have it this early, but I get “moments” – small things that bring a smile to my heart: unpacking the Christmas glasses and finding the one with the chip that I always take as mine so no one else has to see it; putting the garland around the bay windows and attaching the red ribbons to the pull-backs to create a holiday framework with which to view the outside world; pulling out a plastic bell and mistletoe that used to hang in my grandmother’s house – these are what make December special, make the holiday special. And it doesn’t matter if no one can come visit, can come see the beauty that surrounds us this month. We can see it. I can see it, and the sights give me hope.
But these feelings, as I said, come in spurts. Other times I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders – even in years where there isn’t a pandemic raging and civil war isn’t threatening my country. We host a party every year that grew out of a small way to give back to our friends when we didn’t have much in the way of money. Throwing a Christmas party allowed us to cook and bake for them, give them an evening of fun and laughter that was better than a store-bought present. That first year, we had just bought a very small house in a neighborhood of old people (now that I’ve reached their age, I prefer the term “elderly” – but in your twenties, “old people” fits). I was worried that, with the half-dozen or so cars that would line the road, with the noise we might make, that they would call the police on us. So I took pre-emptive action.
I invited them all to the party.
It was a huge success – and mostly because of the “old folk” neighbors. Several hadn’t been to a Christmas party in years because they no longer drove. Now they just had to walk across the street. It was such a success that we repeated the party the next year. And the year after that. And the year after that one – until it became tradition and we’d given the party every year for thirty-seven years.
But not this year. Last year, over the course of the open house, we had over sixty people stop by for conversation, food, and festivity. This year there will be no one. The decorations will be viewed only by my husband, my son, and I on a daily basis and on Christmas Day, by my daughter and her significant other. No one else. As a result, I had a different reaction when I opened the bin marked “Party” – the bin where I keep all the fun dishes, the towels, the little serving utensils that grace the tables and hold the bounty we present to all who walk through the door for the annual party – whether we know them or not (I can’t tell you the number of times people have attended and I’ve had to turn to someone else and ask who that person is. Just because I don’t know them doesn’t mean they can’t grab a plate and have a slice of turkey – but I figure, as hostess, I ought to make sure they eat!).
But unlike opening the other bins, where each one hid a smile and a bit of holiday cheer, this bin brought tears to my eyes. There is no party this year, no gathering of friends. There is no need for the platters of cookies, or the snowman bowls of dips or the plates of fudge. I closed the bin and turned my back on it, surprised at the feelings of grief and loss that threatened to overwhelm me.
This morning, however, I realized I need a different approach. There is no party with friends, but I’m still here. My husband and son are still here. My daughter is healthy, her significant other is doing fine, as is his family. We have a great deal to be thankful for, and a great deal to celebrate.
So today, I’m getting out the party finery. My husband made fudge yesterday, I’ll put it on the Currier and Ives plates and have a piece to “toast” absent friends. Because in reality, that’s all they are – absent. With news of a vaccine on the horizon, there’s every reason to think this a one-year hiccup. We’ll not see our friends this year, so we can see them in the next. To do otherwise – to see them now and then possibly not ever again – is something I can’t even bear to think about.
Ah! There it is again! The lightening in the chest, the world looking a little brighter. The Christmas Sprit visits.
May your holidays be wonderful this month. In a time that’s not only the darkest time of the calendar, but in a year that’s been filled with stress, may your Yuletide, your Hanukkah, your Kwanza, your Christmas, be filled with the Spirit of Light. Hope still lives, as each of these celebrations remind us.
Play safe, everyone. Wear your mask, and drink a toast – or have a piece of fudge – to absent friends. You’ll see them next year.
|These are last year's decorations, as this year we've not had|
any significant snow. Let the lights shine out!