Just over a year ago, still mourning the very recent loss of my feisty 18-year-old cat, Christmas did not hold the dancing enchantment that it usually does for me. It’s now “next Christmas” and snow or no snow, I feel bits of magic gathering in the air. This blog is about loss and a very special book and hope. Here’s what I wrote last year...
Even with its wonderful, twinkly-lit, pine-smelling reminder of hope, peace, love and magic, I did not embrace the beauty of Christmas this year. Emotional numbness over the recent loss of our handful of a way-smart cat and a long weekend get-away in early December left me hollow and rushing to stage a Christmas just before the big day. My heart wasn’t in it, the energy wasn’t there. I could not find a way to imagine our mantle, decorated with greenery and stockings, missing one stocking for the first time in almost eighteen years. At the last minute, we put up a lovely tree and strung it with lights, but left it free of ornaments. The mantle had its blanket of greenery, but we didn’t hang any stockings. We celebrated beautifully with longtime, dear friends, as is our tradition, but my heart did not expand with the joy I usually experience. Well into the New Year I wondered if, after all these years, the wide-open place within my heart which had always allowed me to “Believe” had quietly but firmly closed one day without my even noticing.
It was a disheartening thought in that, more often than not, I navigate happily through life on heartstrings. Then my cousin Jane sent me a photo of her beautiful daughter Quin visiting Santa. Quin turned ten on New Year’s Day and is beginning to wonder, which reminded me of an unusual book I read each year in those special, glittering days before Christmas. The ritual, forgotten this year, is to wait until the fresh green tree has been maneuvered into the perfect place in the living room, each special ornament has been unwrapped and, sparkling with memory, hung on the tree…and that final trip to the Post Office has been made. I then put on my favorite carols, light every candle in the room and with a large, wicked glass of spiked eggnog at hand, curl up with The Flight of the Reindeer by Robert Sullivan.
Found many years ago in a sad little discount book store, this treasure of a book is about Santa Claus and Reindeer That Fly and giving with some bits about science, antlers and aerodynamic lift, a famous arctic explorer and the super-secret Presidential order that clears airspace over the United States each Christmas Eve. They were asking $5.95 for it. I bought them all.
Every year, when a friend tells me their son or daughter is beginning to wonder, I dust off one of my stash and send it off to them. That little tradition began not long after I found the books when my friend Maud told me her son Billy had arrived home from school that week very upset over remarks his teacher had made about Santa. The concerned parents had a huddle over what exactly to tell their trusting child and then wise dad explained that we all reach a point when we must decide whether or not to “believe”. He went on to say that some choose to stop believing in what cannot be proven, while others, and in this he included himself, know within their hearts they will always believe.
So, here I sit thinking about this magical book and loss, and the choices we make and I begin to cry -- in a good way – because I can feel that familiar ache of joy within my heart and I remember that…I believe. Such a lovely gift…because the sun shines brighter, the flowers smell sweeter and the people around me seem so much kinder. Happy New Year…I’m looking forward to next Christmas.
Wishing you peace, love and light this season and in the year to come. E. England