This week I saw a blog by one of my ESL students, in which she posted the three Christmas cards she had made in last week’s class, and praised her creative teachers. Following this, I received an email from old friend and writer Cecile Andrews, who liked my cookie posting in which I talked about “community.” She even subscribed to my blog. And finally, another old friend, Walter, connected me via email to an Iranian woman he knows who is an aspiring writer, so we could get to know each other and exchange information about our lives and ideas about writing. These experiences alone strike me as fine Christmas gifts. Looking at the cards spreading across our mantle from friends near and far, some with letters updating us on the recent events in their lives, also gives me cheer.
But on top of that I’m beginning to notice the aroma of baking bread drifting into my study. I just got off the phone with Marilyn, who is coming to dinner tomorrow, I enjoyed Christmas cookies that a neighbor left on our doorstep yesterday, and my husband is supposed to get off work early. I visited my mother earlier today. She was “reading” the Bible. Since she has dementia, she seems to just be looking at the same page for long periods of time, but she managed to tell me that there were a lot of words there. She then said she was “reading a really good part” and handed the book to me. I read about Abram’s wife who was unable to bear children so she gave him her Egyptian servant to produce a child. But after the child was born the servant got a bit uppity, so Abram gave his wife permission to take her down a peg. I decided maybe my mom wasn’t so out of touch with reality that she couldn’t identify a compelling story when she saw it. Her caregiver is giving her less of the medicine that makes her drugged out for part of the day. She’s more lively now, but does have days when she takes her clothes off more often than anyone there would like. Surprisingly, after six years of dementia she’s still cheerful and happy to see me. And I know she’ll be pleased to open her Christmas gifts, over and over again.
They say “the devil is in the details,” but as we get older, it is the details that we remember and it is these details that can give us hope, validate our lives, and show us our place in the world. Best wishes to all for a good holiday season, one that brings people together even when they are apart, that reminds us of what is important, and that gives us details to remember long after it’s over.