Last year at this time I wasn’t feeling much in the holiday spirit. To be truthful, I was just
short of being a Grinch. We had just moved to Portland. We knew nobody. We had just lost the job we moved here for and we didn’t know if and when our next paycheck would arrive. All of this tacked on to a tumultuous autumn that had us packing up and leaving the only home we had really known as a family. It didn’t feel like a season of celebration but rather a season of sadness. In an attempt to be responsible, we opted not to buy a tree. Instead P built us one out of cardboard boxes (it will forever be my favorite tree!) and displayed it proudly with our homemade gifts piled underneath. P likes to celebrate everything in big style and he couldn’t imagine a Christmas without a tree. Instead of gifts, we bought sneakers that all the boys were desperately needing. The season felt like something we were required to trudge through rather than a season filled with joy and giving.
The bright light during that dark season was a beautiful woman named Chris. She owns Chris’ Convenient Dry Cleaning Services here in Portland. Totally check her out and give her business if you are in the area! We met Chris when she delivered Adam’s dry cleaning to our home instead of to the company that had just fired him. From the moment we met her, she took us under her wing. She gave me a job helping her out on deliveries. She dropped off a tree on our front porch and a box of lights and ornaments. She invited us in to her home to celebrate Christmas with her family and generously outfitted the boys with warm hoodies and fun games. She introduced Adam to many of her networks. She sparked a little life back in to our family. She was (is) a true demonstration of humanity at its finest.
It’s as we enter the season again, one whole year later that I sit here thinking fondly of Chris and the many like her that we’ve been fortunate to meet in this great city.
This December, our finances may still be subpar. Our living situation a thousand feet smaller and a kazillion freight trains louder. Our car one year older and slugging along. Our retirement quite a bit less. Our relationships more strained. Our bodies aged far beyond the 365 days since last year. Our skin a little thinner and our eyes a bit heavier. Although all of these are truths, I am entering this holiday season feeling so much more alive than last year. More hopeful. More proud and less shame. Weary but knowing that there’s still some fight left and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s just not the light I was looking for or planning on. Life has chosen a different path for me [us] and it’s navigating through some of the bumpiest, curviest roads to bring us to our destination. A rock tumbled in the ocean until a unique piece of sea glass finally reaches the shore. That’s how I view my journey. I’m just a few bumps and rolls in the waves from being something beautifully formed.
We are barely in to December and already I am celebrating. No cardboard trees for P this year. Not because we are any richer but because life is too short to skip the tree. To me, the tree represents life and we need to be reminded of that every now and again. So this year I’m living out how I feel about life. There’s no room for gloom and sadness. The radio station is tuned in to holiday music. We’ve been ice skating. We’ve hosted 5 family members over the last few weeks. We’ve been out for bundled up walks in the cold. We’ve built fires. We’ve collected our old blankets for the homeless sleeping in freezing temperatures. We’ve accepted invitations to solstice parties. We’ve broken out the popcorn and hot cocoa for cozy nights on the couch watching classic movies like Old Yeller. Last night we accepted a gift and stepped in to the magical world of The Oregon Zoo Lights. We skipped, ooooh’d and aaaaah’d, laughed, ate, and celebrated the beauty and imagination that surrounded us everywhere we looked. A magical wonderland that set the stage for a renewed season for us. We called in “sick” to school today and played in the snow. And it’s only 6 days in to this seasonal love fest!
Tomorrow we’ll set out to find the perfect misfit tree for our perfect misfit family. Then we’ll pull out the box of ornaments that Chris gave us last year and remember just how far we’ve come since that initial act of kindness. I will look around me and recognize just how rich I am. I will feel that hope deep within myself that next holiday season we’ll be passing Chris’ box of ornaments on to another family who needs a little kindness to carry them through a difficult year. Tis the season…