“It only takes a spark to get a fire going….” Kurt Kaiser song, “Pass It On”
“I just can’t do it,” I insisted, convinced of my ineptness.
In only two weeks, my out-of-town three generations of descendents would arrive on my doorstep to celebrate Yuletide the day after Christmas, while my house remained as bare of Christmas theme and spirit as a deserted barn.
Initially, this date-warp seemed a splendid idea. It accommodated everyone’s familial loyalties to split equally between blood-kin and in-laws on both sides. My agreed-upon slot at the bottom of this family-totem seemed, at first glance, selfless, even noble. I decently loaned my progeny to “the others” during prime Christmas hours, a time that was swiftly evolving into a black chasm, salivating to eat me alive.
The expectancy of being with loved ones was there. I mean—I’m a real family person, aren’t I? At least, I’ve always thought so.
And yet—and yet, I remained frozen, unable to leap in as I’d done in years past, and make Christmas happen for my family. Dread swathed me as the day approached. I knew I needed to have a tree and at least make a token effort at celebrating and safeguarding tradition for the sake of my children and grandchildren. But—I could not.
So, in actuality, my benevolent “me last” approach was spineless. It simply gave me more time to regroup, yank myself up by the boot straps, gasp a second wind or whatever to disguise my proclivity to procrastinate.
“Then don’t,” replied Lee, who loyally supports me during cave-in moments. And believe me, this concession was not, for him, a sacrifice. Lee could live—unapologetically—above established holiday hoopla until time is no more and would marinate in the sovereignty. In fact, my normal pre-holiday fixation on detailed planning sends him scurrying to the shelter of our bedroom, door firmly locked, feigning a headache.
On second thought, maybe he’s not feigning.
Oh, he’ll help out in a cooking and cleaning pinch, as long as I do not obsess. But for me to not obsess, once tunnel-focused, is like letting our Chihuahua Fifi out the front door and trust her not to take off through the neighborhood like a demented greyhound. It does not happen. However, when our clan comes pouring through the front door for a visit, Lee’s as excited as I am and cannot do enough to make everyone comfortable and welcome.
But that’s another story.
This particular day, I was beaten down with apprehension as holiday time sped closer and closer. My Christmas spirit had skulked off somewhere, dragging my get-up-and-go with it. And my “want to.” Fact was, I wished Christmas would simply disappear from my radar screen; that I would fall asleep and awaken to find it over and done with.
And then the doorbell rang. Gary, our friend and Lee’s business affiliate, stopped by for a cup of coffee and a chat. “Betty’s going through some Christmas ornaments at home,” he informed us. “We’re purging because all our family lives away and we don’t have little ones coming in to enjoy it all. “ He shrugged. “We’re going to take a break this year. Anyway, we were going to donate the two pre-lit trees and all the paraphernalia to a local children’s home but when we got there with all the boxes, they informed us that they already had so many donations that they couldn’t use ours.”
Then he looked at me. “Didn’t you say you needed to buy a new pre-lit artificial tree, Susie?”
“I did.” I did say that, didn’t I? Half the lights on my relic did not work.
He smiled. “You’re welcome to ours. We have two sizes of trees and all the ornaments to go with them. One is contemporary and the other is Victorian.”
“Okay,” I murmured politely.
My interest sparked a little then flat-lined. My own taste runs to Victorian but…I simply could not rise above the depression that gripped me. That’s what it was—a lingering of PTSS hopelessness, the result of the bad fall two years back. I’d skipped decorating the year after the trauma and everyone cut me slack. But now, would they be as understanding? Probably. Even that consideration did not snap me from gloom.
Atypically, I didn’t really care.
“Okay.” Gary prepared to leave and turned back. “I’ll bring those decorations by. We’re going to get rid of them anyway. And—we really want someone to have them who will appreciate the love that goes with them. Whatever you don’t want or need, pass them on to somebody who does.”
I thought of Patsy, my sister, a pastor’s wife who’s always looking for ways to bless others. “Okay. I’ll call Patsy over to go through them, too.”
“Great,” said Gary as he left.
Then the weight of what I’d agreed to fell on me like a box car. Decisions.
Contemplating decisions turned my insides to cement.
The next day, Gary arrived, his car bulging with boxes, which he began to unload and stack on my porch and living room. And bedroom. I began to struggle for breath. What in heaven’s name would I do with all this?
And then, down on his knees, Gary began to open meticulously packed and labeled boxes, displaying collectors items enclosed in bubble wrap. His voice was reverent as he carefully handled and displayed each object. “And this one I bought in Georgia at a little gift shop when I was driving a truck. We have several of a Dickens porcelain collection. Just look at the detailing here….” The figurines looked alive.
My heart began to warm at the realization that Gary and Betty were not just sharing items. They were sharing love. And the Dickens characters, blanket-bundled together in a sleigh, greeted me with smiles of affection. With each unveiling, my sense of specialness ratcheted up a notch as Gary clarified the uniqueness of every treasure and why it had nudged its way into his and Betty’s hearts.
There was a Santa collection, with every St. Nicholas and Father Christmas image imaginable to place about the house. My sister Patsy arrived and began to oooh and aah and exclaim how other porcelain creations––ranging from Disney characters to nativity scenes and dozens of sundry characters—would “pop” here and there in my home. Soon, she had packed away photos from my white wicker bedroom shelves, where her creative fingers quickly contrived a wonderful chimera display that was certain to mesmerize and entertain grandchildren and adults alike.
There were ceramic musical rocking horses to adorn shelves and end tables. Other musical delights were Santas, angels, and even Frosty the Snowman, a knee-high moving, singing entity that later kept five-year-old Maddie enthralled for hours, until she knew every single lyric by heart.
A two-foot high Santa dressed in mauve and white perfectly matched my own assortment of Victorian decor. That thought kicked in my mind’s eye, already seeing the blend of warm colored tree ribbons and ornaments. And as the search progressed, my interest turned into fascination, and fascination into anticipation of the next box’s revelations.
My energy had, somewhere along the scenic course, imploded into a remarkable rousing of—what? Whatever it was, it propelled me the closest to excitement I’d felt in a long, long time. And then it hit me; this invigorating emotion was the Christmas Spirit, one I’d missed for two years running, ever since that fourteen-stair tumble on New Year’s Eve of that year, one that left me neck-braced and wheelchair bound for months and a long, arduous recovery through which to trudge.
Now, the wondrous spirit of Christmas, when love and good will abound, had wound its way back into my heart. I felt again the splendor of God’s love that, once experienced, makes one want to shout of it from the mountaintops and spread it to everyone.
Early the next day, the six-and-a-half foot pre-lit (white lights) tree came together, onto which I strung colorful wide ribbons and perched two white doves beneath yet another mauve-clothed Santa tree topper. Myriad fragile ornaments, discovered in other cartons from Betty and Gary’s arsenal of delights, joined my own assortment to sprout in all directions, watched over by a host of angels of every size and depiction. Amid all this blossomed huge mauve, pink, and burgundy flora.
In all, Gary made three trips to our house bearing containers—so loaded that Betty had no place to ride with him and rather stayed home doing holiday baking. Oh yes, outside decorations appeared and we ended up using a manger scene with life-sized Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus on our porch. And last but certainly not less impressive was a reindeer that rocked and sang “Grandma got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
Sister Patsy loaded her car with several boxes of delights to share with others in their church family.
Heaven help me, but I was bowled over by it all! And I realized that God’s timing was—as always—perfect. He took our friends’ purging and generosity and turned it into a gift-giving lovefest that blessed us all!
The final touch was when Gary presented me with an exquisite blonde porcelain doll with wings and a wand that moves when she’s wound up. “Betty sent this to you. She’s had this angel doll for years and it’s very precious to her. She wanted you to have it because she knew you would love it as she has.”
I blinked back tears and thanked him for the gift, deeply touched.
Now, weeks later, the angel doll sits on my bedroom’s tall jewelry cabinet, her blue eyes twinkling a daily reminder of my friends’ love gift, one that started with only a spark. I still warm up to the fire’s glowing. And I reflect upon the words of the song: “that’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it. You spread His love to everyone. You want to pass it on.”
Emily Sue Harvey is the author of the nationally bestselling Unto These Hills. Her next book, Twilight Time, will be released on February 17, 2015. You can stay up-to-date on Emily Sue Harvey’s blog posts at her website.