Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Stay with it. Mourning into dancing, I promise.

It's Christmas Eve, 2014.  There are no presents wrapped under the tree because we are not celebrating until the 28th, when we can all be home, and we are a last-minute lot.  It's 5 pm and I'm home alone.

I have been dreading this night.

For almost every Christmas Eve of my married life, Brad and I have spent the day racing east.  In the earliest, best years, we would leave immediately after work and drive through the night, arriving in the wee hours of the morning, maybe sometimes just before sunset ...Brad truly wakes up around 11 pm, at least he did then, and he'd sing along to loud rock music and we'd go home.  Home was a farm in the middle of small-town Manitoba, and I'd wake up when we hit the gravel, and so I'd be awake when we took the last turn, when we would see the yard light glowing in the dark Manitoba winter, and we'd know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that within minutes, we would be stumbling, bleary-eyed and weary into warmth and love.  Mom would get up, no matter what the time was, and nobody in the world hugs as hard as she did.

Sometimes, if we'd gotten away early enough, and it was only one or two in the morning, Dad would come wandering out of a barn, tug on his eyebrows, and welcome us as well.

And then there was a new farm, and then Brad's Dad went on ahead, but always - always! - there was Mom, somewhere in Manitoba, waiting for us with a light on.

And then it was her turn to go on ahead, (if it's at all possible, she's got a light on for us all there, too) and that first year, two years ago, so soon after her death, we were all raw and reeling, and last year, there was Cancer, here in our house, and we just haven't yet found our footing, you know?  I want to hand the keys to the house back and say "Wait, who left us in charge?"

And then there's the fact that two and a half years ago, I began to recover repressed memories that completely shattered my view of my own childhood.  Even Christmas memories have been forever altered.

And then we made a Grown Up decision to minimize the gifts this year in order to pay for university, and while that makes total sense on paper, gifts are one of my love languages, and I was trying to be stalwart and acceptant and take a Long View of Things ...

So I haven't particularly been looking forward to Christmas.  Christmas used to fill me with giddy delight, for most of December.  It was almost annoying.  I really missed that mood this year ...

And then.

A week ago someone texted me "I have the COOLEST THING EVER for you!"  A gift she was so excited by she couldn't wait to give it to me.  Not someone I have ever exchanged gifts with - completely unexpected.  And sure enough, it was pretty much not only the coolest thing ever, but something I have been wanting for a long time, and for extra bonus, handmade by a local artisan.

The fog started to lift.

Last Saturday I walked into my Mom's room at the nursing home and my three and a half year old great niece leaped to her feet and thrust a gift bag into my hands.  She was so excited by the absolute perfection of the gift she'd insisted on finding for me that she couldn't WAIT to give it to me.  Even though - we really weren't exchanging gifts on that side of the family this year.

Sunday friends came over with Christmas goodies.  Brad and I were going to play a game later that night but when I unwrapped the plate of goodies, I said "Maybe we could just sit here and eat cookies instead!"  We didn't, but what a blessing.

And then a few days ago, I dropped in at a friend's to find out how to look after her cats while she's away and ...two wee gifts that spoke directly to my heart. 

And yesterday I saw my psychologist and I was finally able to hear something she's been telling me for a few weeks and when I left there ...the Christmas mood started to sneak in. 

This Christmas Eve that I have been dreading?  It started out with my texting a friend and daring her to come to Costco with me on Christmas Eve, because we both needed to go.  And because God is all about "beyond all that you ask or imagine" - she brought me a gift.  (Not that, you know, we were going to exchange gifts or anything!)  And again, not just any gift - a "specifically for Susan" gift.  And Costco on Christmas Eve was exactly the adventure you'd expect it to be ...

And then I drove halfway across town to give my boss a tin of bought cookies and I walked into her house and found the last missing piece.  Her oven was on, there were pies and cookies everywhere, a young grand-daughter helping her - the house was full of warmth and food and love and floury aprons and I was so deeply deeply satisfied, I took off my coat and did some dishes. 

And then I came home and made some Christmas treats of my own, for my own family, because how can I not pass that on?

"Your mercy rains from heaven
Like confetti at a wedding
And I am celebrating in the downpour"

Be blessed.  Be a blessing.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

If I wrote this in a story, nobody would buy in to it ...

A few days ago, I opened the trunk I've carried around with me since I left home for boarding school at the ripe old age of 16.  I was looking for notes or a syllabus or something that might give me a chance at not taking Yet Another Introduction to (some kind of) Literature course.  I found no hint that I had ever taken an English course, but I did find Systematic Theology notes, and a big ol' stack of journals, dating back to maybe 1974? earlier?

I picked one up at random and started reading.  One little story from Grade Ten has been following me around for a few days - a story about when a boy in my grade teased me about something, just normal kidding around kind of teasing, and how that made me feel.  "Like I wasn't ugly.  Like I was just an ordinary person who you could act normal with, or even someone beautiful like Jane Doe."  (I'm paraphrasing. I 'm not going to go dig the thing out again.  And her name wasn't Jane Doe. I changed it, because her real name is a) unusual and b) going to come up again in this story.)  For the life of me, I could not remember one single solitary thing about Jane Doe, but apparently she was beautiful.

So today, just as the post office was closing, someone came running in wanting to pick up a parcel at the last minute.  I checked her id - Jane Doe.  Not really Jane Doe - the same unusual name I had read in my 1976 journal not three days before.  I looked at her and decided to ask the question.  "Did you grow up in Selkirk?" I asked.  She had.  She was born in the same year I was (I had to ask because she is still much better looking than I am!)

She was, unaccountably, the same Jane Doe, and there is no way on earth I would have remembered her at all if I hadn't written her name down thirty-eight years ago.

So of course I had to tell her the story, and then I had to come home and write it down because - wow.