She steps soft on the quiet snow. Winter hushes in it’s heavy cold and holds suspended the whimsy of dreams and fancy of living.
The stream cuts a black path through the glistening white. A lonely figure, she carries carefully, the steaming cup of coffee. Mittened hands grip for warmth and her red mouth tastes deep. This act of living spirals hope to her soul and she pauses for a moment to take in the beauty that surrounds. No one would know how alone she feels. The clamor of children calling to one another, the joy filled sounds of family sharing stories, and life happily lived; lead one to imagine that she must be consumed with the bliss of family and the season. The glow of lights from the Christmas tree shine through the window and the red berries peak out of the green on the wreath that hangs with pride on the front door.
Her hand slides the snow off of the chair and she sinks into the cold seat with a shiver. Her legs cross against the chill and she tucks in the blanket she brought with her for warmth. Sip, and steam hovers around her face. She, the outcast. The one lost. The one who seems to spark anger and frustration when she speaks. Who widens the gap with every wrong opinion or misunderstood word. The daughter that made every mistake and hid her shame in her carefully manicured family.
This icy cold chair and the bubbling stream are her only solace as life sparkles and dances through the windows. She watches their faces as they laugh. Smiles, at kisses shared and treats devoured. A shred of guilt clutches at her and she hangs her head. She has tried so hard to be what was wanted and expected. Here, sitting in the snow, lost in the loneliness of silence, she is at peace.
She had sat through so many conversations and endless platitudes. Her head ached and she leaned it against the warmth of her cup. She couldn’t linger overly long or her children would come searching..
For this moment she needed the quiet. The interlude with beauty and cold and peace. To feel the frost on her nose and the warmth on her tongue. To be separate and yet still a part. To say hello to all of herself that she lost in the noise and chaos of family singing carols and drinking wine.
Christmas. A celebration, a gathering of togetherness. So much pain and so much joy all crammed into one day. Somewhere the magic had quieted. The delight had become lost in the chore. Yet, when her children woke and shouted with glee at the wonders under the tree, she could feel a bit of their treasure. She could share in their excitement and watch, like a memory, the magic that flowed freely in their day.
This. She may not understand or have it figured out. Her family may hurt and dismiss her. But, here in the stillness, and in the solitude of a cup of coffee enjoyed in the snow, by a gurgling brook. She found that family, in all of it’s mess and disfunction, brings a depth of love and magic that can spark a wonder in all it’s history.
Many years ago, she would run with her sister to the tree and clamor for presents and eagerly distribute hugs. Flour would covered counter where she would cut out biscuits and the wrinkled hands of her grandmother would cup around hers to help shape the dough. Her mother would be dressed in slacks and a red sweater and always smell sweet and heady in her Sunday morning perfume. The house would be mostly clean that one day a year and they would set out their gifts, to admire the finery. The excitement of the new toy would course through her. Small arms would cradle the the new doll. Little fingers would shove large bites of chocolate into their greedy mouths.
Somehow in all of the good, there had been hurt and division. Still, this one day, they came from all their corners of their worlds, and in all of their differences, they merged on the common ground of history.
She glances back to the house, the sound of the piano starting to pick out the tune to Joy to the World. Her dad reaches down to pick up her daughter and the little arms curl around his neck. Young eyes watch in wonder as his voice carries the delightful refrain. And from her secret perch, a small smile curves around her mouth.
They may be different, they may not understand her, but here in this moment – there is a depth of love that she needs. She takes one last sip and uncurls from the cold metal chair. She folds the blanket over her arm and follows the deep trail of her own footprints back to the house. She stomps the snow from her boots and carefully unties them, placing them neatly beside the door where most of the other shoes have been kicked off in wild disarray. Then she turns the knob and feels the blast of heat and sound as she steps back into the house where all of the magic of all the years has collided in a jumbled harmony.
“Mama”! The delight on her daughter’s face floods her heart with all of the pleasure of a thousand gifts. Little arms reach for her and she nuzzles the soft neck of her child. Then she whispers a silent prayer that her children will always come back to gather around the Christmas tree. That even if she misses who they really are, they’ll know that from the bottom of her heart, she desperately loves them.
Joy to the World the Lord is Come,
Let earth receive her King,
Let every heart prepare him room
and heaven and nature sing
and heaven and nature sing
and heaven and heaven and nature sing…
The carol rings out in raucous wonder. The quiet surrounding the house, fills with the melody of family.
Cherylyn Petersen, is a certified holistic health coach and mother of three. She spends her time slaving over the whims of her children, presiding over the PTA, coaching soccer, making dinner, cleaning the house, and sometimes she drinks coffee.