The candles glowed and the room was bathed in the twinkling of a hundred tiny Christmas lights. In the corner, the tree stood naked. His branches waiting adornment.
His name is Ferdinand, my youngest daughter informs me when I enter the living room to begin our annual ritual of dressing the tree.
They are all here, gathered around Ferdinand. My two daughters, C.C.’s daughter and son and his girlfriend, my sister Anne who has stayed an extra day to be part of the fun and my girlfriend Tamz who has been helping me with organization for the Christmas at the Madison concert and making cards and preparing her paintings for the art show. Tamz is one of the three Basement Bombshell Art Collective artists and I am grateful for her presence. She is organized where I am chaos. She is thoughtful where I am ‘let’s just get it done’. We are missing Alexis’ my eldest daughter’s partner who has flown back to Vancouver earlier in the evening and Charles’ daughters boyfriend who is on his way back to Toronto.
We are a small but mighty crew. My daughters and I are also very accustomed to having the tree, ‘our way’. Over the past six years, with Charles and his family in our lives, we have begun to expand the circle of what ‘our way’ looks like. And it’s not always easy. A house of women, we like our pink bowed, white and pink and rose and purple decorations. We do not like toy trains and tin soldiers.
We are learning to expand.
As I watched and listened and immersed myself in the laughter and joy of my family creating magic on the boughs of a fir tree, my heart melted in gratitude and Love. We had gone together earlier in the afternoon to pick the tree. Including Alexis’ boyfriend who had not yet left for the airport, we were seven in the decision-making process. It was a hilarious journey into ‘the forest’ where C.C., upon losing sight of us called out, “Where in the forest are you?” We laughed and called back and the man in charge of the tree lot laughed and graciously said, “Well, I haven’t heard that one before!” And even though we knew it wasn’t true, we effusively congratulated C.C. on his originality and somehow, within the space of a half hour managed to all agree on the perfect tree.
C.C. brought the tree home while the girls, my sister and JM went off to my mother’s residence where the senior’s hand bell choir were performing. It was delightful. And it was sad. We were the only ‘outside’ members of the audience. No other family came out to hear the concert. My sister, Jackie, who is my mother’s primary care-giver and knows every one at the centre where our mother lives, told me that many of the residents will be left alone for Christmas, their families too busy to include them in their celebrations.
The hand-bells choir began 3 years ago. I missed last year’s performance and am so grateful I had the chance to make this one. The 14 members of the choir (all women except for one brave man) sit at two long tables and press their colour coded bells, their faces earnest and intent, their attention focused on the sheets of music before them. My mother, as tiny as a sparrow, sat in the second row, her eyes scanning the music, carefully pressing each bell when her note was required and still, as one of my sisters walked up to take a photo her face would turn towards them but her eyes would never leave the page she was watching.
It is her mother’s heart. Always knowing where her babies are. Always alert, no matter what she is doing, on watch to ensure her chicks are safe.
And still, Jackie’s words of people being left alone this Christmas are ringing in my heart.
At the shelter where I used to work, for several Christmas we did video Christmas wishes. One of my staff set up a Christmas themed backdrop and we invited staff, volunteers and especially clients to come and record a Christmas wish. It always moved my heart to hear people wishing Merry Christmas to those they hadn’t seen in years, to those they’d lost, to those they did not know where they were, and who, in many instances didn’t know where their family was either. Their eyes would be watery with tears, their heart’s heavy with regret and still, they wanted someone to know how grateful they were for shelter, how sorry they were to be missing them this Christmas.
We dressed the tree on Monday night. Ferdinand stands, a beautiful sentinel to the love that binds our hearts and the joy that fills our togetherness. He is the song we sing of family and love and ties that join us together with bonds stronger than any wind that will ever blow.
In the magic and wonder of Christmas, I believe in miracles. Let’s create miracles everywhere this Christmas! Let’s break down the walls that keep us apart and join together as one family, one humanity, one earth in need of peace, hope, love and joy.
Let us be the blessings we wish for in the world.