The Ultimate Christmas Gift? Time.

Still searching for the ultimate Christmas gift? Slow down. The holiday season can be a complex cocktail of mixed drinks and mixed emotions. Memories mingle with expectations, commerce batters our […]

December 23, 2013 // Tracy Shaffer // No Comments //

beach dream
Still searching for the ultimate Christmas gift? Slow down. The holiday season can be a complex cocktail of mixed drinks and mixed emotions. Memories mingle with expectations, commerce batters our spirits as we try to forge a holiday to remember, or find a place to forget. Everything about this year has been different; Hanukah braided into Thanksgiving like challah bread. Less time for shopping, decorating and gathering meant fewer opportunities to offend with a benign “Happy Holidays”. By the time it was December, the only salutation left was Merry Christmas.
Early autumn brought news that my former brother in law had been diagnosed with stage 4 clear cell renal carcinoma. The only one thing that crossed my mind was that “Then we’ll all go to Texas to see him, ‘We’ being my two sons, my ex-husband and I. At first I thought a road trip would be nice, affordable, until my dear friend woke me from my sentimental glaze. “You’re going to drive two days, each way, in a car, with two teenage boys and your ex?” There was a long pause as my denial melted. “If I offered you Buddy Passes, would you fly?” she said in her kindest, Jungian therapist voice. “Yes!” I yelped in response.
And off we flew for a week of movies, board games, laughter and football. It’d been seven years since the split, perhaps a decade since I’d seen them, but here I was, in a familiar bubble of family. One would be leaving for Afghanistan after Christmas; another would scroll through the iPad photos of the newest grandchild, plans were made, and questions of treatments and side effects hung in the air with the sweet smell of ham as we trimmed the giant tree. Asked and answered with grace and honesty,there was much to be grateful for as I caught a whiff of the meaning of life.
I returned to an Arctic blast, an obsession with the old, hard plastic Santa decorations that were presently populating my neighborhood, and a three week wait before I’d find myself on a Mexican beach with my own family. Laughter, and swimming and whale watching and volleyball; the boys had more in mind than board games, eager to spread their night wings, just as I was swept into the unplugged undertow, seduced by the silence of the cell phone. It’s been a good year, I thought as I wrapped myself in the scent of the sea. Yes, there’d been shootings and shut downs and stunning acts of stupidity performed by the likes of man, but there had been beauty and healing and more than a few acts of courage. Right here all was well… if just for the moment.
I watched the sun set on the castle builders and sand crab diggers, lulled by crashing waves and waiting for the stars to announce time’s passage. I inhaled, feeling time passing from within and vowed to make it count.


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