Where Are You Christmas, Why Can’t I Find You?
It’s no secret that 2020 (and for that matter, most of 2021) stink, stank, stunk… No amount of air freshener or Poo-pourri would ever be able to conceal the stench that has been lingering for the past 20+ months.
Last Christmas was definitely one for the books – and I don’t mean the warm and fuzzy memories book… Our state governor shut down so many businesses (AGAIN!) during the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year holidays. Covid rallied and had another surge. We experienced the death of so many friends and family (most of whom were not due to Covid). The fear, anxiety, and frustration would, at time, overwhelm and consume me.
In 2019, my Mom got sick and ended up in the hospital two days before Christmas. I was hoping that 2020 would be a better holiday for her, but alas – the lockdowns and Covid protocols meant that all of our Christmas plans came to a screeching halt.
My spouse and I did porch drop-offs of Christmas presents to our parents. Attired in a cheesy Elf costume and that despised face mask, I, along with my spouse, covertly sneaked into our daughter and son-in-law’s house on Christmas Eve so I could stand 20 feet away with a zoom lens strapped on my camera to snap the annual family photo of them all adorned in their new Christmas pajamas. We called our parents on Christmas morning and then did a zoom conference on our computers so we could watch the grandkids open their presents from us.
I am not going to lie – I was sad, and I was mad. It was a beautiful, snowy Christmas Day – something that had not occurred for the past several years. I was desperately seeking some solace in my soul and decided to drive down to the local State Park, which is five miles from my house. Nature has become my refuge in this storm of life. As I was gathering up my boots, warm winter coat, hat, and mittens, I peered out my living room window and saw the most beautiful Cardinal perched in a tree branch. My cousin Scott, whom I have written about previously, had died unexpectedly on December 13th. I just knew that he was popping by to wish me a Merry Christmas. (We always texted and messaged each other at least once a week).
My despondence was still crushing me as I drove down the snow-covered narrow roads to the park. I had Faith Hill singing [from the Grinch movie soundtrack], “Where are you Christmas – why can’t I find you? Where is the laughter, you used to bring me?” I was grumbling and grousing out loud to myself, “Where indeed are you Christmas? This is the worst Christmas ever!” I was in full blown; woe is me mode. I pulled into the parking lot at my favorite spot, where I saw and spent over an hour hanging with a Bald Eagle on Thanksgiving afternoon. I exited my car with my camera hanging around my neck. I waded through the deep snow. I was still so, so angry! How dare life throw all of these curveballs at me? Why, oh why did so many of my loved ones have to die? I was literally stomping my way down the path. And then I gazed down at that white snow with what looked like diamonds glistening and shining. I stopped and took in cleansing deep breaths of the crisp air. I breathed in and then out. Rinse and repeat.
A section of Faith Hill’s song came flooding back to me, “If there is love in your heart and mind, you will find Christmas all the time.” My four young grandchildren and my elderly parents have had their lives disrupted far more than I have during this Pandemic. But none of them were complaining. My grandkids were so excited that we visit the outdoor Keystone Safari just days before Christmas. They petted Holly the reindeer, hung out with the Grinch, and held a baby Wallaby in a sleigh. They saw Santa, from a distance and told him their heart’s desire. We drove through a Live Nativity scene on a very cold and frosty night. We spent an afternoon up at our office wrapping presents for their parents and eating take-out pizza on the floor. The kids got a little crazy and started wrapping each other up as presents! My parents weren’t pitching a fit that they hadn’t had a family Christmas with all of their loved ones since 2018. All of these memories came flooding back to me as I stood in the forest on Christmas Day. Tears started to stream down my face, “Oh, I feel you Christmas. I know I’ve found you!”
I drove into our little town on Christmas night. It was pretty much deserted. I walked up and down the snowy streets and gazed with wonder, much like a child, through the decorated windows of the shops. I appreciated the beauty of our town’s new 35 foot tree in Memorial Park, alight with hope and promise of better days ahead.
Life is not fair, and life is not easy. But as Faith sings, “The joy of Christmas stays here inside us – fills each and every heart with love.”
Oh, trust me, I will still get mad, sad, and frustrated. I will throw some epic tantrums and fits – but I really, really hope that I have the presence of mind to stop and reflect on that snowy moment in the woods last Christmas Day when I realized that what I was seeking was already deep down in my soul – and that it was here to stay, if only I let my heart be open.