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A Tree Lights Up

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The turkey carcass was still sitting on my kitchen counter when I decked my halls in a desperate plea to get some holiday spirit up in here. I like when my house is noisy with my kids running around and laughing with the chasteness of a Hallmark movie on the tv in one room and teenager’s music in another while the microwave and dishwasher hum in the kitchen. Busy, busy, busy things that mean people are afoot. Oh… but I also really love silence. I love the stillness that appears in this time of year, too. And so last night, when the kids had gone off to sleep and the house returned to its quiet warmth, I pulled a chair over and sat by the Christmas village in the dining room. Illuminated only by the lights in those little houses I stared at those little mittened ice skaters spinning around and back and forth and doing it over and over again.

It’s all just so perfect there in St. Nicholas Square. The shops, book store, imposing cathedral and the ice rink. Oh, how I wished it were real. I wished I could be right in there with them. Knowing my thoughts are powerful I closed my eyes and wrapped my arms tight around myself and I shivered as the cold of winter washed over me. I inhaled the glorious scent of fresh snow, pine trees and hot chocolate. I exhaled and watched my breath leave my mouth like a puffy cloud. The silence of my living room was erased by the jingle of bells and far away laughter and the slice of metal drifting over ice.

Breathe in and out, I told myself. Just breathe.

There I was in the splendid little village, watching, breathing. Onward they skate. Always together. Never alone. Off to the side, the wooden, unmoving, three-piece band played their instruments with nary a note to be heard. And opposite them was a green jacketed man. His left arm permanently outstretched where once he held a leash for a little black dog. Ironically, that little black plastic dog was chewed up years ago by one of our real life senior dogs, back when they had teeth and did more than sleep 23 hours of every day. But no one gets old in the Christmas village. The skaters skate and the onlookers look and the band stands motionless, and that green jacketed man stands, arm stretched out in vain, waiting, with a painted smile on his face. As they twirled I noticed the gray circular marks worn into the ‘ice’ from the repetitive motion and the low humming sound of the motor underneath it all, pushing the magnets under the skates.

The other night I attended a tree lighting at my kids’ school. It was beautiful. There was a five piece band singing off to the side and hot cocoa and cookies being served. My little girl ran and twirled around and around and I stood there and watched her with my arm outstretched, holding her cocoa as she ran past me laughing. Kids hung ornaments on the newly lit tree. Adults chatted and took photos. I felt the coolness in the late November air. But this is Los Angeles. It doesn’t carry the weight of a New England winter and the way I always picture the word December in my mind. But this is my home now. Dramatic in a different way I suppose. But real.

The gathered voices joined in singing “O Holy Night” and I felt my eyes begin to water. My vulnerability and over-sentimentality battling with my embarrassment for center stage. So I quickly turned away from the music and the singers and I positioned myself behind the large pine tree, wanting to be away from the depth of meaning in the song… the season… But, walking away never works. Tuning out doesn’t last. Real is real, whether you ignore it or not. So, later that night, while I tossed and turned in bed and visions of displaced sugarplums interrupted my heavenly sleep I awoke with clarity. All of this means something… The desire to suffocate myself in holiday cheer and my attempts to run from the sentimental emotions they evoke. The past. The memories. The future. The expectations. The worry… And, I don’t know that I’m ready to know, to really know, what ‘this’ is or what it means. But the good news is I don’t have to. I just need to stay in the present moment… Ahhh, yes… And this present moment is the season of giving, of love and of kindness and I think that’s just about the luckiest thing I could imagine. I’m running around with hot cocoa and I’m wearing a sweater and I’ve got red and green tinsel strung on the inside of my eyeballs. My heart is full. The skaters twirl. My daughter spins next to the trussed up tree. All is calm and merry and bright.

And I’m here. Timing is everything. ’Tis the Season!

God bless us all.

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