A Subtle Miracle
by M. Tracey
This year is the same as last year. Even though the dates and faces have aged slightly since the last gathering, the basic idea is the same. The hope that a silly holiday could squeeze love out a dry family is simply ridiculous. Nevertheless, I drive to my parents’ house in my beat up ford Taurus, thinking to myself that at least nothing could be worse than last year. As I walk up the steps in my carefully chosen black boots, black tights and gray skirt, I smooth my shaking palms over the red tweed jacket my mother bought m two years ago. I brush one hand over my hair, knowing no matter what I did it would not be enough to appease the criticisms of the other family; the family that I do not belong to but have unwillingly been given limited entry to.
Throughout the family party I sit in the corner and wait for the others to leave. When they are gone and the leftovers are covered and the dishes are in the dishwasher, I finally feel safe to relax in my parents’ home. I no longer live here for reasons I could never fully articulate. There is something about a child’s home that seems to suffocate once a person reaches a certain point in their life. I reached this point a bit sooner than my peers.
Perhaps I forgot to mention it was Christmas Eve and it’s a Halpin family tradition to sleep at my parents’ house. So here I sit, nine o’clock on Christmas Eve, forsaking the parties and gatherings of my various friends. It was easy on the ride over to concentrate on the flaws and painful family moments that I knew would be present during the party. The other family has never let rest a single moment that they might use to criticize or display their anger towards, mostly, myself. The inevitable negatives clouded over the best part of Christmas; the part where the extended relatives leave and before you, you find a giving and loving unit. Perhaps it does not always function at top efficiency and there are times during the year when you wish to break away from it altogether, but in this moment, in the spritely glow of the lights on the perfect Christmas tree in my over decorated living room, carols floating lightly under the bubbly conversation, life is good and family is all important.
Gifts are lined in colorful paper under the tree, some with pretty bows, most without. My mother sits on the love seat, smiling with a matronly glow, my grandmother bustles about the room preparing for the most important family tradition and my brother and sister wait expectantly on the rest of the seats. From her bag, grandma produces three lumpy presents that would never join the elite rank of under the tree Christmas morning presents. These are of a higher caliber. Eagerly, the three of us tear the paper off what we already know to be Christmas pajamas. Year after year, grandma manages, despite her ever decreasing salary to purchase and wrap three pairs of pajamas and socks that her three grandchildren wear to bed on Christmas Eve. It is the tradition I treasure most of all because it shows the amount of love and care that goes into our Christmas. These gifts are not based on the materialistic desires associated with the holiday but on the vitality of tradition, the need for family rituals that pass down important values to the next generation.
Quickly, as the time is approaching ten, we change into our new pajamas and gather together once more in the living room for cream cheese filled celery. The night is almost over and the exhaustion is settling into everyone’s bones. Though weary, I am unable in this moment to remove myself from the scene in favor of the comforts of a warm bed. Laughter, love and hope really do exist during the holiday season. It lives in the hearts of small children and innocents across the globe and it shines here, on the faces of my loved ones. It was simple to dismiss this holiday the way many intellectuals do, harping on the materialistic and the past, was effortless to recognize the true weight of the holiday. The miracle of Christmas was not as overt as an angel descending. Instead, it was whispered softly in the fluffy snow on the frozen ground, purifying the landscape and the joy of family and tradition in my own home.
That night, before I fell asleep, I closed my eyes and pictured the past year of my life. I looked at all the possible reasons I had had for dreading the holiday season this year and was thankful for their eradication in the face of such perfection as was to be found right before me. I slept peacefully that night and so did the rest of my beautiful family.