Christmas is over. Wood shines from beneath the tree where presents were stacked. Dishes cover the kitchen counters, stove, and sink. Empty boxes, torn wrapping paper, discarded bows. Here in our quiet little yellow cottage remain the mess and the memories.

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Alone for the day, I move from one scene to the next, recalling voices and laughter and stories shared only hours before, a bustle of activity in a family that grew by one more this year. Our clan expands, and our capacity for love grows with it. These are lovely days, and this is a beautiful life.

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This morning I gathered my presents in a little pile on my side of the bed, then sat down next to them to appreciate them all over again and to mostly appreciate the love and thought that went into their giving. I visualized each family member holding up each item and exclaiming, “Perfect! Lisa/Mama/Mimi would love this!” I smiled at the mental picture.

My thoughts drifted back over the years, all the way back to Christmas in my girlhood. I remember being around ten and piling my presents in the middle of my bed and crawling in with them to relive the moments of Christmas when I could feel the love of family and that joy momentarily overshadowed the pain of splitting the holiday between parents. It was always hard coming home from Mama’s; my heart ached for her like I’d imagine any little girl’s would. I missed her. Two years later when Daddy passed from this earth I would miss him, too, in a way I will never outlive. The missing of Mama is permanent for nine years now, and it doesn’t get easier.

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Living a grateful life feels a lot like piling presents in the middle of the bed and crawling in to relive and appreciate. It’s something I do often, in one form or another. It stills the rushing of time and gives me time to live. I’d like to say my thoughts are always this life-affirming, but the truth is sometimes the quiet seems to evoke more questions than comfort.

My nest is not empty, but it is a lot quieter now. Sometimes I feel like a mother whose time has come, and gone.

So as these moments float by, I will keep gathering my presents in a little pile wherever I might be and offering heart-deep thanks to the gift-givers and to the Giver of all good things. I’m looking forward to next Christmas.

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