Tuesday, 18 December 2012
A Twist of Fate on Christmas Day
By Joyce Benedict
It was Christmas 1975. I had been separated from my second husband for just over a year and raising my two preteen sons from a previous marriage.
The weeks before Christmas had been filled with the usual gift buying, wrapping, baking, planning the holiday meal, decorating, making and addressing cards, trimming the tree.
A call came from the boys' father. Plans changed. My sons were to be with him, not me on Christmas day. He arrived Christmas eve and whisked them off where he lived 38 miles away.
It was not until Christmas morning it hit me. I was alone! What a twist of fate.
Slowly, I moved past my justified sorrows and picked up a book I had started reading weeks earlier. Engrossed in my novel, time passed swiftly and when the bird was done, I ate my meal alone. Tears spilled again as I silently bemoaned the fickle finger of fate.
I do not remember just when it happened, but I realized slowly that though I could do little for myself that day, I could do something for someone else. Who else was alone? Why, a woman I knew who I seldom saw but who I spoke on the phone on many occasions.
I called to see if she was home. She was. She had not cooked anything. I told her to stay put. She said she wasn’t going anywhere. I carved huge pieces off my bird and in aluminum containers filled with all my Christmas ‘goodies’ plus a bottle of wine, drove 20 miles to her home to deliver her a Christmas meal.
I was silently shocked at her appearance as she greeted me at her door and more so as I observed how she lived. Her long, thin, gray hair hung about her face.
A tired, forlorn look changed to a weak smile that brought a soft glow to her face when I handed her the containers of fresh, cooked food. She closed her eyes breathing deeply as she reveled in the delicious smells of mashed potatoes, turkey, dressing, creamed onions, gravy wafting ever so slightly from closed containers.
She wore a long smocked night gown that appeared to come from the previous century it was so old and faded. Dark brown velvet drapes covered her windows. I felt as though I was in a funeral parlor without the lights on.
The house was filled with paraphernalia, years of accumulation which overflowed into bedroom and bathroom.
It was clear to me she cherished her place deeply, unashamedly. I thought how my inner critic had to be silenced as I recognized it was her world, not mine, that she loved.
Her sole companion, a cat named Velvet, as deeply a lush brown as her drapes followed her as we toured the old house and the piles and piles of old things in it. Who could have foreseen where I was to be on this Christmas day.
We sat at her dining room table where a small area was cleared amidst the mess for her daily repasts. She ate the food with relish but with a natural grace and dignity. She then savored the pieces of pie, chewing each piece like morsels from heaven.
Here I was sitting in what most would call squalor, trash, mess, with old plants wandering everywhere yet feeling strangely rested and content. I felt like I was moving through an old grade B movie; like Bronte’s Wuthering Heights perhaps.
She seemed almost ethereal, from another time, as the last rays of sun spotlighted her frail, frayed appearance from a nearby small window.
We then opened the bottle of wine I brought and toasted our humble Christmas gathering and the coming New Year. As the wine slowly brought it’s kind escape from the mundane, we each turned inward to embrace the visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads.
I drove home that night aware that something very special had taken place. I felt no longer alone - the early day’s tears, anger, self-pity but a faded memory. In it’s place was a delicious tiredness and deep peace.
As my bed embraced me lovingly that night I was reminded of the closing lines of a poem by Philip Brooks:
For the Christ-child who comes is the Master of all.
No palace too great, no cottage too small.”
The babe had visited us both that Christmas long ago.
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