It’s Christmas again, December is here / What did you wish for? What did you fear?
—Christmastime (Aimee Mann/Michael Penn)
—Christmastime (Aimee Mann/Michael Penn)
Dan and I hosted a small New Year’s Eve party last year, with some neighbors and local friends. With a desire to mark the end of one year and the beginning of another, I asked everyone to write down one wish for 2010. After I took a little mocking for my goofy idea, my guests wrote down their wishes on slips of paper and I collected them in a crystal dish, which I dubbed the Wish Dish.
The dish was given to me by my aunt, who turned 90 this year. It had belonged to my grandmother—her mother-in-law—a collector of glassware. The dish now sits in my china cabinet, once my parents’ cabinet, atop a stack of Noritake dishes that Dan’s uncle, an Air Force pilot, flew home from occupied Japan to give to his mother more than 60 years ago.
A few hours after we wrote our wishes, we passed the Wish Dish. Each of us pulled out a wish and read it aloud. The wishes made by the teens and preteens neatly fell into two categories: electronic devices and more wishes. The rest of us made wishes that were, for the most part, of two natures: a Red Sox championship and peace on earth. The electronics may have been attainable in 2010, but we’re still waiting on the rest of our hopes.
Within two weeks of making our wishes, and after he spent 26 years with the same company, my husband’s job was suddenly eliminated. Night after night, after our daughters went to bed, we huddled and tried to gauge the future to decide whether he should interview for another position in the company—in Connecticut or another state—or take the severance offer. By the end of the month, Dan landed a newly-created position with his company, one that didn’t require a move. The job is challenging and stimulating, but it carries a strong element of uncertainty. Like so many others now, we no longer have the confidence that his job will be there.
The shock of Dan’s job loss was followed a few months later by the jolt of my cancer diagnosis. It felt like what my family got this year was a lot of what we feared. I know I’m not alone in this. I look at my friends and see the toll that 2010 took on many of them: one friend’s husband died; two lost mothers and another lost a father; one finalized a divorce; and just this fall, two friends lost jobs. There were aging and ill parents, financial worries, relationship stresses, chronic illnesses. The year has been hard for many in my circle.
Now, almost a year after the party, December is here; the sun is low and the shadows are long. Yet, as I look back on 2010, I have a hard time feeling anything but grateful. This year brought trouble, but what it also brought me was this: overwhelming kindness and love, from family and friends, near and far. Surgery and chemotherapy were not easy experiences, but they were palliated by the caring of so many.
There have been food and flowers, notes and cards, visits and phone calls, little gifts, emails and Facebook posts. I’ve received homemade bread and homemade bandannas. Dear friends and relatives sat and talked and laughed with me through the many hours of chemo. Our house was cleaned and many, many dinners were made. A couple in my church has sent me a note every week since I started chemo in July. I have reconnected and strengthened ties with so many friends, from all the times of my life. I can find no other word for this experience: it has been a blessing.
It’s Christmas again, December is here / Hasn’t it been a wonderful year?
Last New Year's Eve, as the old year dwindled, we passed the crystal Wish Dish, prized once by my grandmother, then by my aunt, and now by me. We held the shining past in our hands and attempted to draw the future from it. We wished for the best and feared the worst. We took what came, as hard as it sometimes was, and with the help of so many, muddled through the year somehow. And that, in the end, is all I could have wished for.