Tis the season!
I have been pondering for days what to write for this Christmastime letter and post. I have a cache of stories some filled with joy and optimism and some filled with loneliness and remorse. To be honest, each of them have been started and deleted in the past few days. Nothing felt right as I started to string these letters together in my typical misspelled fashion. You see this is a Christmas like no other I have experienced and I am not sure exactly what to feel.
Thirty-five years ago, I was still living in my childhood hometown surrounded by family and friends. The holiday season had morphed from the exciting children’s myth of magical elves, through my adolescent revelations of gift givers and gift giving, solidified itself in my Faith and Salvation, become a burdensome event that had to have both money and time carefully budgeted, and finally evolved into strained and eroded family event at Mom’s where my siblings gathered dragging along unfamiliar love/like/lust relationships that may or may not endure for more than one season. Christmas had lost some, but not all, of its magic for me.
It was roughly in that timeframe when I met an attractive waitress who worked at the restaurant where I was the master chef. She was somewhat older than me with two preteen daughters. She was my guest at Mom’s holiday table that year and had to be introduced and subjected to the Kent family eclectic humor, noise, chaos and occasional disagreements. In the years following that meal, the waitress and her daughters became my family, the Christmas feasts were at “our” house, and the magic was rediscovered in the girls, their eventual husbands, and finally in the eyes of the grandchildren they bore.
But the magic of the season tends to ebb and flow. In the interim years where my marital family supplanted my childhood family and I moved away from New Jersey to build a life in Florida, both my older brothers passed as did my Mom (I lost my father in 1969). The “happily ever after” part of my story wasn’t well-written and as you know, my wife of 32 years and I have split up; the magic I so desperately seek has been displaced once again.
Christmas in all of its permutations has always been an important time for me; yes, I have had some sad ones and some lonely ones, but taken as a whole, it is a favorite time for me. When my wife left, I purposefully asked her to take all of the Christmas décor she wanted and to sell the rest. I figure that if I am starting a new life, either alone or with someone else, the visual icons of the season should not be a reminder of my “Dickens-esque” Christmas pasts, but reflective of my Christmas present and Christmas futures.
So here I am with a decimated financial budget, what I once called family is permanently estranged, I have only a single wreath made by my oldest brother before he died, a tole-painted plaque that my sister made, and a few seasonal CDs that did not take the ride south to Florida. Am I sad? Am I lonely? Am I disappointed or angry? No, believe it or not, there is a swelling deep in my chest; it is that magical feeling of Christmas still alive and growing.
I have a new life ahead, so there is nothing for me to be sad about. I have a sister and a niece, a brother and his lovely wife, and wonderful, supportive friends all over the globe, so that I will never be lonely. I survived 32 years of marriage to a great friend, and although there were and are difficulties that make continuing our marriage impossible, I have no regrets or anger over the outcome. This is a Christmas like no other I have experienced, but there is still the magic, and come what may, I am going to make the most of it. I suggest you do too.
Wherever you are in life, take time to feel that magic; the joy, charity, fellowship, and goodwill of this season. Christmas is a metaphysical mirror, what shines from within is what is reflected back. Celebrate the spirit and magic with everyone, not just your family and friends, but with those less fortunate than yourself. It is easy to spread cheer: infect someone with your smile and greeting, drop an extra quarter in every red bucket you pass, buy the coffee for the person behind you in line, pay some family’s layaway balance, be a little extra courteous while driving or shopping, over tip your waitress, or volunteer at a shelter or Ronald McDonald House.
Granted, it could be just as easy to find all of the reasons to ignore the magic. Grinches run rampant this time of year: memories of loved ones lost, happy times gone, money issues, health issues, even those underwear clad bell ringers on that stupid commercial. But to don a grimace, to defeat the joy, and find disdain for the celebratory air of Christmas, that is NOT the face I want to see in my metaphysical mirror; this may be a Christmas like no other I have experienced, but I can still feel the magic. Tis the season!
Merry Christmas, my friends!