Lighting Up the Darkness

Christmas. Is All. About. Loss. she said, several weeks or was it months, ago.

That stayed with me. Like a pit in a peach, or a rogue seed in an otherwise silky tangy mandarin orange.

Christmas carols in a car, on a dark velvety Christmas Eve. Phone calls across the country. Missing my nieces. And my brother, long gone. Gifts, the desire and the anticipation and the disappointment. Good food, and laughter at all of the season’s excesses and touching absurdities. The longing for childhood, and all the ways we regress, watching children’s cartoons made for the season, wanting and not wanting and then wanting, family.

A Moroccan lamb tagine I made for Christmas Eve, salty, sweet, she and her son loved it, her daughter chewed solemnly on grilled ribs. We’re. Excited. About. The. Present. We. Made. For. You. The daughter, the son, his girlfriend, holed up for two days before, making crafts. Their sweet, determined glee.

In another city far away, my mother, surrounded by a tangled net of sons and daughter, grandchildren and great grand daughter. I am away from everything I know. I am with the person I love, and her children, of whom I am very fond. Everything I know and love recedes from me, comes towards me, and the ground beneath me, like a beach you stand on as the tide rushes in, seems to move and slide even though I am, for once, standing still.

The day arrives, and wherever I am, whomever I’m with, there are always tears in the morning. Christmas is all about loss. Her sister is dying. She cries after being on the phone, her mouth an oval, open, at a loss for words.

The day rises and falls, like breath. There is music, there are books, there is food. She plays Scrabble with her children, and they are close that day. I am outside of the circle for that moment. There are always circles, opening and closing.

We seize an hour for ourselves and a walk on a beach. Magic hour light – pink, orange, gold – draws us back to each other.

Alongside the boardwalk, there is a memorial tree, decorated with red baubles. I exclude the inscription from the frame of my camera lens. I have my own memorials – entire cities of them, really.

Christmas, Hanukah, Solstice – all emerging from the same root. The deep and primal need to both embrace, and light up the darkness. The loss of light, the loss of another year. Those who are with us, those who are not, one who is poised to leave this earth. And the hope, that rushes at us, full, unbidden, and necessary.

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