The visitors arrive like Magi, some bringing gifts that likely have as little practical use to the recipient than something he or she might wear to their own funeral. The living room buzzes with conversations, small talk about universal themes: family, health, weather, the ghosts of Christmases past. You busy yourself in the kitchen, preparing the too-big meal for the too-anxious crowd that sits on your mismatched batch of chairs, wondering at the boxes beneath the tree. After dinner, their hunger sated but not their appetites, each family member, in turn, receives his or her share of the under-tree giftscape, leaving behind the debris of the season’s here-and-gone tornado of emotions and memories. You scan the scene, moving from one rosy-cheeked child of God to the next, each resting within their nest of torn wrapping paper, a display of joy and excess that’s often confused you, dipped you in anxiety and guilt, burned your fingers and laid waste to purse and parlor. That’s when you realize the gifts given and received tonight weren’t wrapped in paper and bows, maybe weren’t so practical but always will be the most essential. The greatest gifts have always been the giving and the givers.
With Christmas only a week away, these thoughts dawned upon me in another pre-sunup wake up call.