At the end of the evening, my son’s face was beaming and his eyes shining to a degree I don’t know that I’ve seen before. He’s a very happy and enthusiastic kid, but Sunday seemed to propel him to another level.
For the first time in his life, we’d spent Christmas independently of family. I was trusting that enough was available at home. My son, on the other hand, had been nervous about the radical idea of “just us” or of nonbiological tribe.
It was, most definitely, one of the best Christmasses of both our lives.
Some of my favourite moments:
- finding three wise men and some sheep, each mangled and broken, eating my breakfast the next morning
- said breakfast, this being leftovers of Christmas night’s incredible feast, courtesy of generous, skilled, and hospitable neighbours
- hours upon joyful hours with seven friends made just in the past six months, feasting and talking
- that each person’s dietary needs or preferences were accepted, unquestioned, and supported
- learning that several of us around the table share the same dream and vision, and that we each have specific skills to bring to its fulfilment
- realizing that I’m known, via friends and an acquaintance gifting me with exquisite items surprisingly “me”
- receiving brand new, shiny things in their original boxes, with gift receipts, all inside brand new sparkly paper (I’m returning NONE of these beautiful and relevant expressions of love, but I was delighted that folks felt no personal need for me to keep a given item, that each was given unconditionally, without attachment.)
- a follow-up email, inviting more connection
- managing to wiggle out more capacity for simply receiving the incredible bounty offered to me
- the joy on other people’s faces when they saw my happiness and gratefulness for the gifts (of every kind) they gave me
- understanding that the gifts I, in turn, bring throughout the year are seen and deeply appreciated
- witnessing my son’s intense joy
- all of my child’s Love Languages met, and not only by me
- countless hugs
- cuddles with brand new friends
- our messy home, all strewn with love and play
- long exchanges of honesty; the sharing of personal stories
- laughing hard, at our shared foibles and those all my own
- the opportunity to observe friends’ talents: painting, baking, observing, laying tables, stitching
- in any given moment, up to five adults—all unrelated to each other, and none of them me—huddled tightly around my son to help him with his new electronic toy
So, yep, I did unexpectedly receive material gifts. And I did indeed love them! I’m very glad some friends decided to make me this or buy me that. I felt utterly infused with love and care. At the same time, so many of my favourite things about this season were nonmaterial. Eye contact. Deep listening. Honest sharing. Time. Noticing. Remembering. Cooking. Laying a table. Sweeping. Touch.
There have been other gifts, too, this season. Hundreds of words exchanged with the delightful and kind Andrew Hallam—understanding and helping me with my internal and external process in relation to my book, and filling me with comfort, hope, and peace. Silence. New opportunities in my community. Snow. Folks buying my book. Fleece. The incredible setting of nature I live within. Coziness. Friends holding hands. Smart, concrete information from forum members in the DIY areas from publishing to investing. Electricity. Copious time at home. Candles. New book reviews. The Mindy Project.
Thank you, all, for your parts in much of this!
Last winter, I wrote in my Google calendar that if I hadn’t found “local family” by Sept 2016, I must go south to find the humans who remain available December through March. By the key date, I had indeed found them. (Or, they had found me.) In a funny coincidence, one such couple—that had previously gone south every winter—reached the same sense at the same time, and was inspired to list their southern home for sale that very month.
Material items help us survive, or help us feel physically comfy, or aid us in our work. Just as important to our survival—and to our desire to survive—is the sense of safety, belonging, and connection that tribe provides.
When I was poor, I needed to find ways to rise materially. But part and parcel of that was finding was to rise relationally: to differentiate who was trustworthy and kind and who was not; to distinguish who had abusive goals and who had altruistic ones; to become comfortable with people who aimed to be “good” and uncomfortable with people who had no such goal; to decline contact with some individuals and to welcome contact with others.
For folks with reasonably straightforward lives, all of this is somehow embedded in the psyche, is intuitive. For the rest of us, it’s a learning curve. A big one. And one well worth riding.