You’ll never guess who gave me the best Christmas present this year.
Turns out it wasn’t my husband. He and I actually don’t do traditional gifts, choosing instead to give each other trips and travel.
And no, the best gift did not come from my in-laws, though I am in love with the knee-length denim apron they gave me featuring a chicken motif as a salute to my seven pet chickens clucking as we speak in my back yard. This awesome apron also has a pocket on the front. There should be a law, don’t you think, that all aprons should have a pocket?
Nope, wasn’t the apron.
No, the best gift of all this year came from a stranger.
Somewhere in the middle of the holiday blur I received a letter, an email, actually from a dear reader. She was thinking about her good friend who unexpectedly lost her husband this past summer.
“I was hoping to share one of your columns with her. The one where you wrote about “There’s never enough time when you love someone.”
This lovely lady’s simple request to help her find a copy of that column turned out to be a gift to me.
The best, gift really.
The gift of remembering.
As I posted the copy on my website and sent her the link, I couldn’t help but thinking of this lady’s friend, of her first Christmas without her husband of 46 years, of her friend’s ache and loneliness.
Coming to marriage and parenthood late in life means I will probably never know what it is to have a husband for 46 years, let alone lose him after so many years together.
But coming to marriage and parenthood late in life, means I have had more than my share of difficult, lonely holidays. I remember so many years where I put on the happy face, threw parties, accepted invitations from friends and family. Truly, deep down, I longed for my own special someone to share memories and traditions.
And these holidays were indeed everything I had dreamed of: Nothing fancy, but the joy of gathering my husband, our daughter, in-laws and friends. There wasn’t a single, sad lonely moment in the month of December.
It was this dear reader’s email that pinched me out of my sugar plum fairy holiday scene into an important reality.
My loneliness wasn’t fixed by my meeting the right guy, having the family.
It simply changed my now.
And while, yes, my now is pretty wonderful, the truth is, I’m most probably simply between longings. There was a long stretch before and a good chance there will another time in my life where I long. It won’t be like this last December, where I didn’t worry about my mother who is still kicking, feisty and living independently. Or one of my best friends made it through breast cancer surgery this year. My 14-year-old dog, the three-legged cat, the chickens — they’re all chugging along. Life is good, but I’m reminded it is simply a moment in time. Things will change because they do. They just do.
For those of you who are in a giant exhale, “Thank goodness the holidays are over, because they were excruciatingly painful,” I send you a belated hug and gift of understanding. Please know, this is just your now. I can’t say when things will change. But they do. They just do.
And so, Dear Reader, I’m writing this column for you, as a way of saying “Thank you.” By trying to do one kind thing for your friend, you gave a very important gift to me, and any of us who have it good right now.
You made my now all the more precious. For that, I am now and eternally grateful. I bet I’m not the only one.