Editor’s note: This column was originally published in The Clarion on Dec. 25, 2011. Author Nick Varney said he had several requests to share it again this year.
We all have certain memories or thoughts of times and places that provide us with an internal source of warmth and comfort wherever we may be or what circumstances we face. Mine is of Christmases past and those held within the palm of the future.
It is a time of year to express the depth of our affection for each other and strengthen the bonds of friends and family. It is a time to reflect on the good in our lives and find fewer faults with the world. It is a time to allow regression to tempered childhood innocence, filled with expectation, unbridled excitement and a taste of simpler times gone by.
It is a time to heal old wounds… to reach out… to touch… to just dial a number. It is a time for the recollection of old friends or now distant relatives with whom we once shared a closer rapport. It is a time to gently bring tears to those who discover they have not been forgotten by merely mentioning something personal in a common Christmas card. It is a time to forget petty grievances and allow the generosity of forgiveness.
It is a time to remember our loved ones now passed on, yet still so much part of us. It is a time for the purity of love. It is time for family.
For those of us who have faced isolation on Christmas, it is difficult to describe how one can feel the chasm of distance, yet be so deeply content because of emotional ties which grant our souls the spiritual passport required to be with those at the center of our hearts.
The power of such unions stretch to wherever our distant loved ones dwell and serves as a beacon of hope and a guide back home. It is a metaphysical thread transcending life and death, empowering those fortuitous enough to experience it. With some of us, it is the mere symbolism of lighting a candle for those who cannot be physically with us to savor the taste of hot cider and help turn the front room into a jumble of discarded wrappings and far-flung bows. The flickering glow fills a void and if one looks closely, they may see the glitter of old eyes, since departed, gazing upon the morning’s merriment … or just sense the affectionate closeness of a cherished spirit.
For those who lack a candle, they need merely close their eyes and allow the mind to take wing. Somewhere out there is the place or people they seek. It is a time when only you can confine or deny yourself.
Jane and I will be celebrating this Christmas in our cabin by the sea and marking another milestone in our marriage that began on a prior eve many grand years ago.
Although my parent’s ashes now grace the waves of Kachemak Bay, they’ll stop by and we’ll reminisce about those nights before Christmas when Santa would phone to chuckle that I’d better get to bed or he and his reindeer “will blast by your chimney.”
I’d take off like a three foot rocket in PJs to tell my folks about the call, but would discover Dad and Grandpa had left to go downtown just minutes before the phone rang.
As I gaze at their candles and brush a bit of moisture from my eyes, I’ll see father smile and give gramps “the look” as I babbled the exciting news to them when they returned from their sudden errand.
During my military years and then working in the high north, I spent way too many Christmases away from home but I always felt twice blessed. First, I felt no physical loneliness because of the fine camaraderie of my peers in the field. Second, every absent and treasured soul from my past or present was there with me as I opened … very tenderly… their spectral gifts given freely and without encumbrance.
They were the offerings of sanctuary and supportive love. They were the memories of love past given and of love awaiting my return. One must never forget the most precious gifts to have around the Christmas tree are friends and family, no matter where they may be.
As always on December 25, my wife and I will, once again, be surrounded by those priceless treasures.
Nick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.