December used to be one of my favorite months as a child. I would wake up every morning with butterflies in my stomach. Christmas was coming! There were holiday parties. There was the annual trip to see Santa Claus. There was the wonderful Roxbury tradition of Christmas caroling and whenever we went to get our tree, it always seemed to snow.
We would have hot chocolate with marsh mellows in the cup while we hung the ornaments on the tree. Family members sang and danced around the living room while we decorated. And I remember wearing our best outfits as we piled into the car for the Christmas Eve service at our church. There was an overwhelming sense of joy that would well up inside of me as the music filled our chapel and we shared one of the holiest nights of the year with family and friends.
And when I woke up on Christmas morning; Magical!
Last month seemed to pale in comparison to the memories I have of my childhood holidays. Commercialism filled the airwaves and the streets wherever I went. We live in a new community where we are still meeting people and forming a solid foundation for our future, so the celebrations were far and few between. We were sick when our local church had an evening of Christmas carols. And the realization of just how much our family has contracted over the past few years became blaringly obvious!
Stephanie was starting to feel a little melancholy and missing many of our friends back in Massachusetts. And I was feeling nostalgic for the good old days when I woke up every morning with butterflies in my stomach. We put on a brave front for the kids and engaged in many of the holiday traditions we had created over the years but without talking too much about it, Stephanie and I knew something was missing.
A few days before Christmas, I was up late trying to write but I couldn’t get the words to flow from my head, through my fingers and onto the printed page. I was mired in the middle of a writer’s desert where all of the ideas were barren and the words were as scarce as a few drops of refreshing water in the middle of an oasis, so I decided to surf the web for some inspiration. I surfed over to LinkedIn and started to peruse some of the jobs listings and found nothing.
Then a voice from the farthest reaches of my mind screamed at me, “Search for some old friends.” Without even a hint of hesitation, I typed in a few names. I was having some good luck finding old friends, so I decided to type in the name of a friend Stephanie and I had been trying to reconnect with for a few years. And although, I am a master at finding people, this family had almost no digital footprint. Without a solid clue to point me in the right direction, my previous attempts to find them had led me down a bunch of dead end paths.
I almost laughed when I typed the name into the search box and hit the enter button. I waited as LinkedIn retrieved the information from their database and a few seconds later, his profile was staring back at me. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I quickly sent a message and a friend request via LinkedIn, shut down my computer and went to bed.
When I woke up in the morning, I didn’t say a word to Stephanie. It was possible I sent a message to the wrong person (highly unlikely, but possible), so I didn’t want to get her hopes up. When I checked my email later in the day, Tom had responded. He and his wife were coming to visit their family members in North Carolina for the holidays. By the end of the day, we had worked out a plan to have them stop by our house on Christmas Eve.
We had a great visit with friends we hadn’t seen in a bunch of years. We introduced Tom and Sue to our children. We laughed, we reminisced, we shared the stories of our lives over the last few years and for Stephanie and me, we felt like a collective wish had been answered. We had a wonderful Christmas Eve visit with extended family members who breathed life into our otherwise vapid holiday season.
We went on to have an amazing Christmas Day with our children, we took a wonderful holiday trip to DC to spend time with three of my siblings and we ended the month with a spectacular First Night celebration with friends in downtown Raleigh. Our spirits had been lifted and the magic of the holiday season filled our hearts and souls.
As I thought about the last month of 2010, I realized that the “Magical” part of my childhood wasn’t as much about Christmas as it was about the Christmas spirit. A spirit that can only be kindled, sparked and filled by the people we have in our lives; friends and family alike! I am blessed to have siblings who live close to our home, I am graced by the presence of new friends who have embraced our family and I am fortunate to have so many friendships that have remained strong even though we have moved. And as an added blessing, I am thankful for having reconnected with a great family who has meant so much to Stephanie and I throughout the years.
The month of December this past year was just as I remembered it; Magical!