Anyone who knows me knows how much I love Christmas. I never lost the sense of wonder and magic, the feeling of awe. I still soak in the lights strung on trees and bushes and neighborhood homes. I can listen to the Christmas story a hundred times more and never tire of it.
I love, especially, Christmas Eve and Christmas day, after the rush to shop and party and do. I love when it is enough to be, to cherish our kids’ excitement and the reverence of a candlelight service. To recall family stories that have become legendary, to laugh and hold onto the gifts in our lives.
I have had several friends who have faced serious illness in this early winter season, illnesses that reveal how thin the ice is beneath all of us. They know well how one tiny fissure becomes a threat to how they previously viewed and understood their lives. For those friends, there is a new awareness of just how precious life is, of the importance of each moment they can be with loved ones, cherished and secure. Each minute infinitely precious, filled with possibility.
If you celebrate Christmas, it is likely that the presents no longer sit beneath your tree, wrapped up and mysterious. When we were young, my sister and I were always able to ferret out where my parents hid their stash of gifts. We read the names on each tag, shook those packages and tried to imagine their contents. I still remember the holly green wrapping paper my mother used for seemingly years, the way she tied each bow, whether green or red, the exact same way. Sometimes she asked me to help her with those bows by putting my stubby—and often dirty—finger on the center so she could knot it off tightly.
There are still presents beneath our tree. Our eldest son was unable to make the trip this year, and our middle son and his girlfriend celebrated first with her family before they venture here tomorrow. So we will have a Christmas one-day delayed, yet still steeped in all the joy of it. The presents are for tomorrow; but the quietness, the being together with our youngest son, the music and the smells from the great roast beast (with baked ziti for my ever-growing vegetarian population)—they all fill the now.
Perhaps you have unwrapped gifts beneath your tree as well. Even if you don’t believe that’s true, look again, with a different eye, and you will be able to see them. Piles of presents, each one for you, beautifully wrapped and mysterious and unshakeable because you can only envision them in your mind’s eye. My friends who thought life might be slipping away can see them clearly—each one, the gift of a day. Together, days and weeks and months with their stories as yet unwritten, untold, waiting for us to fill them up.
That is how I will approach the coming new year. Not with a list of resolutions and assumptions, but with the possibilities. I understand that those days will contain sadness and disappointments outside of my control and I will face them as they uncurl in front of me. But for the rest, I will embrace what I have been given, what I am and who I want to be, what I can achieve when I decide to live my life without limits.