I’m a seeker. Especially at Christmas time. I search for perfect gifts for everyone on my list. Ones filled with wow and wonder. I comb second hand stores for delicate vintage glass ornaments like the ones we hung on our tree at 204. I inherited all of Ma’s and have been growing her precious collection every year for the past decade. It’s my magnificent holiday decorating obsession.
I scour through cookbooks, online cooking blogs and recipe websites looking for something new and delicious to bake or cook over the holidays. In the end, nothing compares with the treasure trove found in Ma’s sacred and magical Gurney Recipe Box.
I flip through fashion magazines for inspiration on what to wear for all those festive occasions. This is a silly pastime because E and I don’t attend those kinds of affairs. Yet I do it anyway. It pleases me.
I’m also bedazzled by sparkly festive shop windows. I hunt for the perfect holiday outfit. I daydream about a beautiful more glamorous version of myself that will somehow magically appear like Cinderella at the ball. I wonder what it would be like to knock ‘em dead at our office party. I fantasize about a transformation from drab nondescript woman in the corner cube to glamor girl in the shimmery dress with legs that never quit. That never happens. Even the younger me couldn’t have pulled that look off. Truth is, that’s not me. Never was. Never will be. But it is fun to play that movie in my head once a year.
Pursuit of the perfect gift, recipe, or dress aside, what I really seek at Christmas time is meaning. What’s it all about? This search trumps everything.
With E’s cancer diagnosis hanging over our heads like the Sword of Damocles, the desire to find something deeper, more profound, more significant was intensified. It served to remind us of the fragile nature of this life we live. Teach us to grab onto every precious moment like it was your last. Embrace the ones we love.
We were given a reprieve from the fear and anxiety that brought us to our knees the week E was in the hospital. The Friday that he was released the RJH was glorious. A heaven-sent day.
The first thing E did when we got home was take the dogs for a walk in the crisp clean December air. It was as though he was breathing for the first time. He could walk unencumbered by the inescapable steel dance partner he had been hooked up to all week. Free from all the medical machinery that monitored his every heartbeat and breath. Free from the antiseptic smell that clung to every cell and fibre of his being. Free to walk upright. Stride. Strut. Swagger. Flounce his new found freedom up the rocky hills that surround our home.
Simply be alive.
For as long as I have known E, he’s been a real crank about Christmas. He would happily take a page from Rip Van Winkle’s book and sleep right through the entire month of December. It was the same old thing every year. Come the day before Christmas, the spirit would finally move him and off he’d go in search of my Christmas present. Some years this was found at the local Shoppers Drug Mart down the road. When M got old enough he solicited her help. This put a stop to the drugstore gifts.
“I’ll make sure he gets you something really good Ma,” she’d say.
And she does.
Of course, it’s not about the quality of the gift. Or even that there are gifts at all. But in our family, we do enjoy this tradition. We like to acknowledge each other in this manner. It’s sounds cliche but it isn’t so much the gift as the giving. As a family we like this and we’re good at. One look at our living room Christmas morning says it all.
This year, the curmudgeon grouchy bah humbug E left the building. Like Elvis on August 16, 1977. Replaced by the new and improved version. Enthusiastic and joyful. Happy to celebrate. Cheerful and charitable. Without complaint nor criticism. No protests. Gripes or grumbling. Beefs or bellyaching. And above all else, the new E, that emerged from the chrysalis on Friday, December 14, was grateful.
Deeply. Profoundly. Beyond words.
Recently, I read a quote by Cicero that really resonated with my spirit. It expressed so beautifully the meaning I sought and found over the Christmas season.
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
E and I are consumed with gratitude these days. There is so much to cherish and give thanks for. Starting with our love for each other. For our family, our beautiful children, our granddaughter, our extended family and friends, our good neighbors, our understanding colleagues, the compassionate caregivers and spiritual teachers. Everyone who has touched our tender hearts so sweetly.
Kindness and compassion. Generosity and magnanimity. Big-heartedness and goodness. It’s everywhere. Dressed in the same attire. Cloaked in the fabric of love.
Jesus and John Lennon were right. Love is all you need.
I’m grateful for that.