It's Christmas Eve, and whether you're with family today, alone, or not celebrating, I'd like to invite you to a unique gathering of friends, family, and strangers happening right here on this page. As I write and as you read, I'd like us to reflect on the hope, the joy, and the expectation that this day represents.
Earlier this week, on the first day of winter, I awoke to a landscape white with frost. The blue-purple pansies I'd just planted had frozen solid. My car was an icebox that I scraped three times before I could see through the windshield. Frustrated and cold, I was cranky as I began my day. By noon, however, the air was so warm I resented my thermal leggings. I returned home to find that my pansies had shed their frigid layers and had popped up with flair. My car was cozy again. That day that began as cold, uncomfortable, and harsh had gradually returned to normal.
This reminds me of how things in life can come full circle -- like the friendship I reconciled in July. We first met 10 years ago in Atlanta, when both of us were struggling to find jobs and make sense of life after graduate school. Tensions in our lives were high, and one day we had an argument. I said some insensitive things to my friend, and we eventually parted ways. As the years passed, I sometimes thought of her and my misguided temper, and wished I could make things right.
I finally located her on the Internet and contacted her. We began the tentative journey of repairing an old relationship. This week, I received a gorgeous gift from her in the mail. The card was a touching reminder of the beauty of rekindled friendship, and how life can surprise us by reconnecting loose ends. I trust you've tied some loose ends of your own this year. Sometimes, however, things don't tie up so neatly, and we still must press on.
On Christmas Eve at the family house, Daddy will usually read the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke. Last year, he gave a one-man play that caused the grandkids to squeal in delight. On Christmas mornings, Mama often bakes sweet bread that makes the morning air sing with delicious odors. Growing up, she sometimes asked us kids to give our siblings a non-tangible gift, such as an act of service or a gift of words. These are the traditions that deepen the meaning of the season.
This year, my six nieces and nephews won't be home for the holidays; and that means there'll be no running, screaming, high-pitched giggling, gingerbread houses only a grandmother would consider beautiful, spontaneous dances, impromptu theater productions, forts in the bedrooms, or fingers in the cake batter bowl. I will sorely miss them. Have you ever had a Christmas that was going to be really different than the ones before?
Sometimes you just have to take the wonderful things in life along with the imperfections, sort of like the false eyelashes I wore for a few weeks this summer. They were beautiful on me (my co-worker told me so) but when the removal glue got in my eyes and burned them so much I thought I'd go blind, I was reminded that beauty, like love, and even joy, sometimes requires a sacrifice. We've all had to make them.
Regardless of what tomorrow brings, I'm sure it will be good. Who knows, I may just love this unique Christmas. It may be one of the best I've ever had. Let's celebrate that in the most unlikely of moments, we can laugh. In the deadest, life can spring forth again. In darkness, a light has dawned.
Tabi Upton, MA-lpc is a therapist at Richmont/CBI Counseling Center. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.