As we make our way through the first days of the Christmas season, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our ideas change as we get older. Now that I’m officially “old,” I’m happy with a small (4-foot) artificial tree, decorated with just a few bells, some beads, and several bows. I asked a friend to get my big cookie jar off a top shelf, but when I think of what it would take to fill it, I’m happy to open a package of Voortman gingerbread men. My decorations have shrunk to a single poinsettia and some candles, interspersed with sprigs of pine and several pine cones. No dinner plans, no family to visit, no parties. I can’t hear music anymore, and I can’t think of a single gift I would want or need.
What am I most enjoying? A couple of strands of tiny white lights that are not really bulbs but simply a wide spot on their wire. Holiday-wrapped chocolates as a special treat. A good book. A small chunk of fruitcake, frozen from last year and resuscitated to add its rum and brandy charm to a few more cups of coffee. Cold nights, clear skies full of winter stars, and a cozy fire in the fireplace. Notes of love and remembrance from friends in faraway places. And memories—of my high school choir performing the entire “Messiah” from memory after practicing for three years to get it perfect, of a little boy’s fascination with the train that ran around the base of his Christmas tree, of twin kittens greeting my mother’s Christmas visit with bright red bows around their necks, and one magical year when we spent Christmas in London, attended Christmas Eve services at Westminster Abbey, and came out at midnight to discover a soft snowfall burying the city.
I’ve been incredibly lucky for most of my life, and I would be embarrassed to feel anything less than total contentment in my later years. But there are a couple of things I’m determined to do to make this season even better. So here are my Christmas resolutions. I will NOT spend any time this month in trying to sell you my books. Readers know the books are out there and available. I assume you are all as sick of sales pitches as I am, and I refuse to offer you another “deal you can’t pass up.” Books make great Christmas presents, but only you can choose the ones your friends will like. Nor will I dedicate this holiday to my favorite charity. I assume you give whatever you are able to whichever charitable cause touches your heart. I will NOT demand—or even suggest--that you support my choice. And I will NOT parade my grief over the things that make me sad. We’ve all experienced both losses and blessings. I will count the blessings and tuck the losses away in my heart.
What remains? The switch that turns off the news. The unexpected hug. Coins in the Salvation Army’s kettle. Lions pecans. Smiles for those shop clerks who appear tired and stressed by multiple responsibilities. An extra scratch or two for a purring cat willing to sleep on my lap. An open door and an open heart.
And if you are looking for me? That’ll be me—the one in the little red car with the reindeer antlers on it!