There are a million tiny moments, every day, all year. Only a few do we hold in our hearts, good or bad, for the rest of our lives. It is Christmas Eve as I write this, and I never fail to find that moment where my heart breaks, and fills up with love, both at the same time.
Today, I was reminded of that moment, as I walked into my backyard to pull down the hummingbird feeder for a refill. It is a brutally gorgeous day. Last week, without warning, the temperature dipped and brought even the tiniest of creatures close to death. Some, sadly, did not make it. So ‘Flit’ – as I call her – and I became friends.
Exactly 22 years ago, on a beautiful day just like this, I had the worst/best Christmas ever – broke, single-parent of two boys in a house I could not afford. I bought a Christmas tree the week before and decorated it. As I draped on the cool gold tinsel I found at a dollar store, I knew there would be little under it.
I worked for a subway-sandwich store. Put in $10 a week in my car for gas, and like most, I was poor.
Dec. 23, we came home to find our tree had fallen over – the needles scattered on the floor along with glass from ornaments and lights. I sent the kids to the other room while I cleaned up. I pulled off the remaining ornaments, left the remaining tinsel on the tree and dragged it 200 feet to the back of the yard, leaving a trail of needles.
I cried – outside, so the boys would not see me – and blamed my tears on the bitter cold that year.
Trading two sub sandwiches to the tree keeper at the lot – for yet another, smaller tree – gave me satisfaction that my boys would have a tree, though maybe only a tree.
It was getting dark and there was no option for overtime this time of year. I sat down, sighed just for a moment before I would have to create magic from the leftovers.
The doorbell rang. I figured it was my babysitter for her weekly pay. I was surprised to see a van in the driveway and someone unloading banana boxes. A young woman was cheerily handing me a tin of cookies. A secret Santa was delivering four boxes of food and gifts! I somehow got on a list and was a recipient of four overstuffed boxes of everything I needed for Christmas. I never thought the gift of food would be as welcomed as a Christmas toy.
The following spring, I was moving furniture. It was a windy but sunny day. I opened the windows and vacuumed the dust from around the window. In the corner of my eye there was a flicker of something shiny in the tree? At that moment, the tree flung it out at me and it landed below the window just out of sight.
In the yard, was a tiny gold nest – made from the tinsel of the fallen tree! Perfect in every way. I imagined the bird was quite proud to have a golden nest to protect her tiny eggs. Ever since, this nest rests in my Christmas tree every year as a reminder.
Every year, I try to pay it forward. This year, my sons and I contributed to a gift package for a senior named Jane. In return, I have a gift tag with a tiny silver bell.
Merry Christmas to Jane and all my family and friends.
Susan Martin, Surrey