As we make our way through the first days of the Christmas
season, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our ideas change as we get older. Now
that I’m officially “old,” I’m happy with a small (4-foot) artificial tree, decorated
with just a few bells, some beads, and a several bows. I asked a friend to get
my big cookie jar off a top shelf, but when I think of what it would take to
fill it, I’m happy to open a package of Voortman gingerbread men. My
decorations have shrunk to a single poinsettia and some candles, interspersed
with sprigs of pine and several pine cones. No dinner plans, no family to
visit, no parties. I can’t hear music anymore, and I can’t think of a single
gift I would want or need.
What am I most enjoying? A couple of strands of tiny white
lights that are not really bulbs but simply a wide spot on their wire.
Holiday-wrapped chocolates as a special treat. A good book. A small chunk of
fruitcake, frozen from last year and resuscitated to add its rum and brandy
charm to a few more cups of coffee. Cold nights, clear skies full of winter
stars, and a cozy fire in the fireplace. Notes of love and remembrance from friends
in faraway places. And memories—of my high school choir performing the entire “Messiah”
from memory after practicing for three years to get it perfect, of a little boy’s
fascination with the train that ran around the base of his Christmas tree, of twin
kittens greeting my mother’s Christmas visit with bright red bows around their
necks, and one magical year when we spent Christmas in London, attended Christmas
Eve services at Westminster Abbey, and came out at midnight to discover a soft
snowfall burying the city.
I’ve been incredibly lucky for most of my life, and I would
be embarrassed to feel anything less than total contentment in my later years.
But there are a couple of things I’m determined to do to make this season even
better. So here are my Christmas resolutions. I will NOT spend any time this
month in trying to sell you my books. Readers know the books are out there and
available. I assume you are all as sick of sales pitches as I am, and I refuse
to offer you another “deal you can’t pass up.” Books make great Christmas
presents, but only you can choose the ones your friends will like. Nor will I
dedicate this holiday to my favorite charity. I assume you give whatever you
are able to whichever charitable cause touches your heart. I will NOT demand—or
even suggest--that you support my choice. And I will NOT parade my grief over the
things that make me sad. We’ve all experienced both losses and blessings. I
will count the blessings and tuck the losses away in my heart.
What remains? The switch that turns off the news. The
unexpected hug. Coins in the Salvation Army’s kettle. Lions pecans. Smiles for
those shop clerks who appear tired and stressed by multiple responsibilities.
An extra scratch or two for a purring cat willing to sleep on my lap. An open
door and an open heart.
And if you are looking for me? That’ll be me—the one in the
little red car with the reindeer antlers on it!