So Once Upon a Time, Charles Dickens kidnapped a little girl. That’s right. He swooped right in and kidnapped her with a Hardcover Classic.
He kidnapped her eyes. He kidnapped hours from her day. He kidnapped her soul. He kidnapped her imagination. He kidnapped just about everything of hers with a single story about a grumpy old crank and a visit from three ghosts.
Ever since that point where I discovered the ghosts & their visits & the lessons Scrooge learned, I have wished for my own kind of encounters. My own Christmas Past & Future to come knocking at the door to show me a thing or two. I am 22-years-old and still wondering, how would the Ghost of Christmas Present manage to break into my Bronx Apartment to get to me if he needed to? Should I leave the gate open for him? Can he use the fire escape?
But, like Ebenezer Scrooge, I have had three visitors this Christmas Season. Three Very Distinct Visitors who have delivered me a great deal of Perspective. And so, on a Christmas Eve where I cannot muster up a single syllable about Gingerbread Cookies, Mistletoe or the Grinch, I will tell you the story of these Three Visitors and the Difference they have made to my December 25.
The Waltz of the Snowflakes
I was not expecting Them. I wasn’t prepared for the first visit.
I had just settled into my seat, smoothed out the creases in my new black dress and eagerly awaited the rising of the curtain. It was the same scene, I have seen it dozens of times. The beginning overture, a little boy and girl peeking through the Grand Doors to see their giant Christmas tree. A party scene. A crazy uncle. And the giving of a single gift. A Nutcracker. To Clara.
And then they came, as if they had watched the ballerinas emerge from the wings and felt inspired. They emerged from the wings of my eyelids. They emerged like Petrified Munchkins who had needed some serious coaxing from Glinda.
The Tears of Christmases Past. I knew it immediately.
Throughout this whole holiday season I have been absolutely captivated by the little girls I see in passing who wear the Great Big Winter Coats with the Leopard Fur Trimming and Oversized Buttons. Fifteen years ago, I was one of those little Girls. Coming to New York City in my Big Girl Winter Coat, going to see the Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet. And now I am two years past two decades, Finding my Way on these New York City streets everyday. Putting on a black coat and a Pair of Black Heels that some younger version of me would have adored finding in her dress-up closet.Clicking those heels all over this City. Finding a way to call it Home.
And so these Tears were a visit from the Christmases Long Ago. The ones with leopard winter coats. American Girl Dolls tucked under my arm. A JC Penney Catalogue to keep me captivated for hours. A cup of Hot Chocolate. Staying up for Santa. A reminder that at any age, and with any winter coat, if you put on your child-like sunglasses you will see the season better. It will glow with a red & green goodness.
Deck the Halls
Yes, yes. They came again during a round of Deck the Halls. I get it, I cry a lot. But it doesn’t really bother me. Once I get over the anxiety of typing a new, fresh sentence about an instance where I cried Once Again, I get over it. I reach into myself, pull out the “Crier” baseball cap, and plop it on my head for the world of the internet to see. I think it is o.k. to cry. I cry over good things. They are Worthwhile Tears to Me.
So back to those halls, the ones we decked. I was standing next to two women. Each holding their babies and a massive bag from Santa Claus. It was the only gifts they would receive for their children this Season. Donated Gifts from the Santa’s that roam this earth. The women in this Bronx shelter are homeless. Some have no family. Some have no education. Some are pregnant, some of them already have a child clinging to their side. But regardless of what they have or don’t have, they are beautiful women. Strong Women. Women who get up every single day and they face life, and I think that is a very daring and admirable thing.
And so I was not surprised when the Tears of Christmas Present showed up, wedged in between a Fa & a La. A reminder that I so often greet, that I don’t really need much for Christmas. I am happy. I am healthy. I am surrounded by people who love me. Above all, I am lucky. This Season has been the most challenging of all. To see how the Poverty Finds its Way to the Christmas Tree before Santa. But it has also shown me that Christmas is not about the bows or the gifts we give. You have heard it 1,001 times before, 68 times from Charlie Brown and 29 times from the Grinch, but hear it from me too. Let’s not focus in on the Presents but rather on our Presence this Christmas. Let’s gather the Memories, Moments & Peace into our arms like the World’s Most Skilled Holiday Shoppers. This is the good stuff. This is the great stuff.
I wish you could meet these women. I wish you could have joined our round of Christmas Carols. You would have shook hands and wished a Merry Christmas to one another. Then you would have smiled, at the simple realization that we are not so different from one another. That Differences Fall Away with a Single Exchange.
A Silent Night (or traffic jam, whichever you prefer)
The first time he saw me I was completely fine. Just another girl tapping her fingers against the steering wheel, waiting in a traffic jam.
The second time he pulled up next to me, it had already began. The Tears had begun travelling down my face, making their way over the humps of my cheeks. This time he stared a little longer. Gave me a half-smile.
The third time his blue truck pulled up to my green CRV, the last time, the Doors had opened. The Big Green & Sometimes Hazel Doors had opened for a slew of tangled, salty tears to break out of their hiding spots and barrel through like Black Friday shoppers.
This time I smiled back. Tears & All. Sending him a salty mess of a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
There is a few things that I cannot tell you:
One) Why a Stranger prompted these tears. He was probably nearing 50, stuck in a traffic jam, waiting to go back to work.
Two) Whether these Tears were of the Past, the Present, or the Future. All I know is that they were Tears. Tears I must have Needed.
But I will bask in the things that I do know. He had a kind smile. I really did want him to have a Merry Christmas. I hoped he was heading somewhere wonderful in the days ahead, a place full of Good Food & Family.
He was a stranger. Oh, oh, My Favorite! And yet he took me with my tears. He didn’t shake his head and turn away or switch over lanes to avoid the Girl who Cries in Perfect Traffic Jams. He smiled. Countered my Salty Wishes with a Somber Duplicate.
And this is how I hope the holidays will be for all of us this year. A time to spend with one another. Be it at a Homeless Shelter in a round of songs or around a tree in our homes. Be it in the middle of a crazy traffic jam or in the stillness of a Silent Night. With Friends. With Family. With Strangers. With Lovers. Wishing one another a Merry Christmas. Regardless of who they are, homeless or housed. Where they are, From Italy to the States to everywhere in between. Or How they are, Grinchy or Clausy.
This is what I pray for you. For me. For All of Us. Teary-Eyed or not. Lonely or not. Full or not. Happy or not. Holy or not.
A Merry Christmas to all. And let’s top it off with a good night.