I have been a Christmas kid ever since I was, well, a kid. I love this time of year. The excitement, the festive feeling, the cheery smiles and the twinkle lights. The music, the decorations and the wrapping of presents. Love it all.
But I think what I always loved most was the hope of magic. The belief that anything could happen. The expectation that something enchanted and unexpected would happen.
Problem was the fates didn’t always cooperate. And sometimes Christmas was just nice. Not otherworldly. Just nice. Not sure why but that somehow disappointed me. Didn’t I deserve magic? You know, like in the movies!
When I had my own child I always strove to make his Christmas magical. Like the year his two favourite Puffalump Ponies (that he had cherished since birth) were worn, threadbare and unable to withstand another washing. He was desolate. Mostly because they were special, lifelong friends and you couldn’t buy new ones. Believe me, we had checked many times. Discontinued.
And so he asked Santa.
That is when Mrs. Claus (me) discovered eBay. And there they were! The ponies were there and all I had to do was “Buy It Now”!
I did. With immense gratitude and a certain modicum of glee. Santa was gonna come through, oh yes!
My son was at the age when skepticism about the whole Santa thing was winning the war against magic. He wasn’t completely sure but he sure as heck had his doubts. Until he opened those two ponies (Bluey and Pinky) on Christmas morning. I will never forget the look on his face. Absolute disbelief, followed by wonder, followed by JOY!
Magic had happened. We were too busy enjoying it to take a picture (oh, the good old days). But it happened. And the facilitating of it was magic enough for me.
Fast forward to my first Christmas as a single woman. My ex and I had already established that our son would spend Christmas Eve with him and his beloved (for her family celebration) and Christmas Day with me for mine. This left me at odds on Christmas Eve. I had spent the 23rd (Christmas Eve Eve) with my family so didn’t want to inflict myself on them three nights in a row. But I didn’t have a beau to amuse me or a son to make magic for.
That’s when I decided on Christmas Eve for Misfit Toys. You know that special island in the Rudolph movie? I simply put the word out. Who wants to come over? Who wants fondue and wine and merriment? Who is a misfit just like me with nowhere to go and nothing to do?
The roster filled quickly and a marvelous night was enjoyed by all. I was incredulous. I had been dreading this hallowed eve. My expectations that it should be filled with family and romantic love had convinced me without these things it would be a crashing disappointment.
Nope. Resounding success.
After dinner another friend and her daughter fetched me to attend midnight mass at our local cathedral. I’m not catholic and not even very religious but I had agreed to go to help them through a rough time. (My friend had just lost her father.)
I was a little tipsy and pretty darn happy and when I walked into that HUGE church (actually a basilica I believe) I was blown away. The grandeur, the music, the throngs, the reverence. It was all pretty overwhelming.
We were late so we tucked in near the back. First my friend’s daughter, then her, then me. Good, thought I. We will cushion her from her sorrow tonight. We are here for her.
Then a tiny little old man tucked in next to me. He couldn’t have been much more than 5’, dressed all dapper in suit and tie with his white hair perfectly groomed. We exchanged smiles as the service began. When it was time for the first hymn he handed me a book. I immediately put it back. “Thank you so much, but no,” I whispered, bending down to reach his ear. “I will share with you.”
His smile lit up the universe.
And so we shared. While my friend bonded with her daughter, little man and I shared and sang. And sang. I’m not much of a hymn singer because my voice is as low as Barry White’s but I did my best. I sang with joy.
When the service was compete and the last carol begun little man looked up at me and said, “One more time to hear your beautiful voice.”
I can assure you my voice was nothing near beautiful that night. I was tipsy and those hymns are so damn high. But the fact that HE thought it was beautiful was the gift I had been longing to receive. Without even knowing it.
When the time came to part I held out my hand for a shake. He just looked up at me and smiled again, holding out his arms. This little man who I didn’t know and would never see again … he wanted to hug me. And so we hugged.
And magic was made. I realized I had been called to that church not so much for my friend (she had her daughter) but for that little man. Who had no one. Alone on Christmas Eve he didn’t even have misfit toys. He had no one. Until he had me.
To this day I count that Christmas Eve as one of the very best of my life. I truly had no expectations. I had not subscribed to that Disney movie magical scenario that when fulfilled would overload my heart with peace and spread twinkle dust all over my head.
I just took care of some other people.
And it was good.
Which brings us to this year.
Yes, I have a beloved and yes I have family and yes my son still spends every Christmas Eve with his father. I also live two hours away from my family and an ocean away from the family of my beloved. We will (as tradition dictates) do Christmas dinner with my family (facilitated fist time ever by my niece and her husband). And of course we could spend Christmas Eve somewhere in those circles too. But I have another dear friend requiring some extra special care this year. So we shall spend Christmas Eve in a hotel. We will meet her halfway and wine and dine her in a restaurant and make as merry as we possibly can. And on Christmas morning there will be a tiny tree and underneath it will be a boat-load of dollar store presents, just waiting to be opened.
She doesn’t know that part. We agreed on “no gifts”. But Santa is magical, right? The rules don’t apply.
Did I ever expect to fall asleep Christmas Eve in a hotel? Nope. Did I ever expect to wake up Christmas morning in a hotel? Nope. Do I ever expect to spend Christmas Eve with my son ever again? Damn straight I do.
But this year I expect nothing. Nothing except friendship. Caring. Family. Love. And beyond that, the Universe can make magic if it wants.
I now know that the magic comes in the giving.
And Santa, I am your most humble assistant.