Really difficult to believe that it’s already December! Where did November go? In fact, where did 2017 go? I hope your year so far has been filled with blessings, great and small, and that you are getting ready to celebrate them with family and friends, not forgetting to take a bit of time on your own in which to think and reflect, feel grateful and generally relax. I know I plan to do just that.
At only quarter-past three in the afternoon the sky is a dark and steely grey here in England—with just a hint of snow in the air. Fingers crossed… I can only hope! It is, I understand, one of the coldest Decembers here in many years. Rumours of snow flurries abound, and in London I am told it actually came down—just for a few minutes— last week. Enough time to taste it on your tongue or feel it on your cheeks?
While we won’t for the moment be sledding here, Christmas is right around the corner, even if I haven’t yet caught up with November. Saying that, my traditional decorated tree is up already, complete with a festive red robin ornament adorning it along with one bauble for each Christmas so far. I’ve already seen A Christmas Carol, burnt more than a dozen logs in the fire and made a raw apple tart. If you live in a university town as I do, you’re hard pressed not to run into a red-robed chorister on practically every street corner at this time of year. In England the choral tradition is deep and rich, and I relish memories of the many years my son heralded the season in his beautiful treble, singing ‘Silent Night’. Saying that, my greatest delight so far this December has been hearing his new baritone voice singing ‘Alma del core’ (‘Soul of My Heart’).
It’s hard not to pause for a moment, after taking out the dogs, bringing in the cat, locking the doors and before turning out the lights, to think about Christmases Past, while the fire turns to coals and the fairy lights are reflected in the ornaments of yesteryear, made by friends or bought by or for me. Each one has a story attached to it. Then I think about Christmas Present, the logistics—who’s coming and who is not, what to bring and where exactly the celebrations will take place. And then precisely while turning out the light, I consider next year… and am thankful that at least can wait.
Meanwhile, gifts… We already have a few under the tree and I certainly have a few wish lists now—some vocalised and some actually written down in ink! I’ve always associated December with gifts, ever since I was a child. Then, I wanted a Barbie and a Ken, and I got one of each. And while I didn’t ask for the Encyclopaedia Britannica, I got one of those, too. As time passed and December became more than a time for Santa, mistletoe and gifts under the Christmas tree, I received other presents. These gifts are spiritual. Every Christmas for some time now, each holiday season, a new and special blessing has come into my life. I call these events my glittering gifts.
Over the years there have been many. The first I recall as I write this was a profound, unearned realisation of faith. As I sat in my home that Christmas, a condominium in Connecticut, bought on the meagre income of a freelance writer, I knew that something above and beyond myself was looking after me. How did that happen? Maybe my glittering gifts should just be called miracles because that’s what they’ve always felt like to me, and still do as they shape and colour my life over the intervening years.
On another very special Christmas Day I recall standing in Püha Vaimu Kirik, the Church of the Holy Spirit, in Tallinn, Estonia for the christening of my son, when just months earlier I had given up every last vestige of hope of ever becoming a mother. As I held him in my arms, tender and warm, and he was anointed, I felt truly humbled by such an amazing turn of events. Learning to let go of the negatives in my life was the most valuable gift I received that Christmas.
There have been many subsequent glittering gifts, too many to enumerate here, and while I wait apprehensively as each December 25th rolls around—what if nothing happens this year? —I have never been disappointed. Perhaps I’ve already been given my gift this year. I am writing again after a hiatus that lasted too long. The words are flowing, and for better or for worse, once more, I am here.
PS If you haven’t seen it, Off-Island has been published by Matador press as an eBook. You can find it here on Amazon. Off-Island is a short novel about tough choices and finding out your family history isn’t quite what you may have thought. It was time to take it off the shelf. Enjoy!