“It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags! – Dr. Seuss
I can see it now. Everyone gathered together just like we have for the past 25 years, around our long dinner table, on Christmas Eve. I’m in the kitchen trying to keep everything hot long enough for everyone to sit down and enjoy it. Surrounded by grown children, good friends, my older brother, and his youngest daughter; a familiar sight that we look forward to each and every year. The menu varies ever so slightly; traditional items that the children love and long for, some vegan options along with a beautifully roasted turkey, soup to start and mincemeat tarts and shortbread for afters. And so, it flows, conversation and cuisine, laughter and love, this is the story of our Christmas. It’s pure JOY.
This year, is the last Christmas in this house, as we look to the future and a new home in the woods. It’s a nostalgic time, filled with traditions and lasting memories. One final tree trimming, one last showing of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, our grown kids sleeping in the same room, a neighbourhood stroll, and lots of lazing around, simply being together in this place, that holds so much of our lives. Our children grew up here, my parents grew old here, and our love grew great here. So many people gracing our threshold, visiting from near and far, sometimes staying on for days and weeks, knowing that our door is always open. This beautiful container has held so much.
There’s a feeling that I love at this time of year. It’s a fullness and a fondness and it arrives just a few days before everyone else arrives. It’s a sense of completeness, that all is right with the world, and that we are surrounded by and filled up with a sense of place. We belong here, and we belong together. We hold each other’s hearts here. This house has been a haven for much of our children’s lives, for the last part of my parents’ lives, and for the last 25 years of our lives. It has seen and heard it all, been a witness to our very best selves, and to the sides of ourselves we long to forget and have long since forgiven. It’s embraced our most beautiful offerings and held us close in our worst tragedies. It’s been our safe place to land. We haven’t just lived here, we’ve LIVED here.
This year our adult children will choose their favourite ornaments and pack them up in special boxes to take home, to their own trees and trimming parties. They’ll select cherished items and art that we are not taking with us to our next home, and they’ll finally move those boxes out of the furnace room, the ones no one had an interest in or inclination to move when they left home.
We’ll sit around the family room, start sentences with “remember the time…” and laugh at photos with bad haircuts. We’ll reminisce about the years their grandparents lived here, the many friends who stayed over and hung out here, and all the great parties we’ve hosted here. We’ll laugh a lot and loudly, and we’ll shed a few tears for what’s gone on here, for what’s been endured here, for what we might have changed here. And it will be unforgettable.
Well…. that was the plan. But we all know what happens while we are busy making plans, life happens. And happen it has; to you, to me, to us. This year has bent us out of our familiar shape and demanded that we adapt or die, and in some cases, sadly, both have happened. Nothing is familiar, and little is like it was. And while I have not yet crumbled under the weight of it all, I have shed my share of tears, have had to renew my optimism often, and have constantly adjusted my sails to navigate the pandemic storm.
With new restrictions in place here in BC and new rules around gathering for Christmas, we have a new plan. No big dinner on Christmas Eve, no shared Christmas tree trimming, no group movie night or neighbourhood stroll, no ‘together’ in this space. This, our last Christmas here, won’t be unforgettable; it simply won’t happen. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be memorable. It’s up to each of us to choose what we hold close. The memories that dwell in this house, also dwell in our hearts, in the memory box we house them in, so they are available anytime we want to give them light. That feeling of fullness I get around this time of year, will still find me here, not because of where I am, but because of what I already have.
I am one of the lucky ones. I am well; healthy when so many are not. I am not hungry, cold, oppressed, lonely or afraid. I have shelter, and we have each other, connected by blood and belonging and we can gather virtually when we feel the need to see smiles and hear laughter.
Christmas will still come like it does every year, and this year, I will again be present; welcoming in what comes our way, knowing that there are worse things behind us, better things before us, and that all is right with the world… as right as it can be right now.