Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas spirit

it's 41 degrees outside, and a few hardy cyclists are out there in the rain-sleet-sunshine-snow-confused day that we're having. but not me. I'm having my THIRD IN A ROW day off the bike. difficult to imagine, isn't it? I'm hopeful that tomorrow will bring me a day in which I wish to ride my bike and the weather wishes to cooperate with me. I'm feeling like it will happen.
but today has been sprinkled with a little Christmas spirit around here. and I have quite enjoyed it.

for the past 12 years or so, my kids have played the role of "secret elf" to a small group of people each december. for the 12 days leading up to Christmas, they drop off little presents at these people's homes, ringing the doorbell and running to hide before the door is answered. on the final day, which we arrange to be Christmas Eve, they actually wait for the door to be answered, and wish the people a merry Christmas.
we choose some neighbors, usually those who are a little older or who live alone. my grandpa used to be one of the recipients, until he died a few years ago. and we have always been secret elf to an incredible, teeny little bundle of love and energy named Clara.
we first met Clara about 15 years ago. she was on a list of care-providers who were available to come to our home to "babysit" our disabled son, and we so fortunately picked her name from the list. she is in her seventies now, and she lives alone in a senior housing complex here in town. she has a son who died a few years back, and another son who has disabilities and lives in a residential facility. she volunteers at a school for kids with disabilities, performing a "foster grandparent" role there.
teeny Clara is hispanic, and although her accent is thick, it's the speed with which words jump from her mouth that cause me the greatest challenge. Clara is full of energy, and even more full of love, and has been one of the amazing gifts that my oldest son has brought into our lives.
today I began collecting items that we will give as "secret elf" gifts. I try to keep them on the "practical and useful" side, though my kids have always teased me that they more likely belong in the "strange and weird" category. I select rolls of tape and cans of soup, and my favorite, a small bottle of "joy" dishwashing soap. candy, clementines, scrub brushes and matches also find their way to my shopping list, as well as candles or bright red spatulas.
I love doing this, and my kids love it. it has become such a part of our Christmas season that I can't imagine the holidays without it.

and it brightened my day today, as I searched the grocery and discount stores for silly things we can wrap up and deliver. the ground may be bare, and the economy might be a mess, but there is still a sense of excitement and joy in the air. I felt it today, swirling around. a true Christmas spirit will always survive whatever calamity exists in our overly dramatic world.
and Clara, bless her very being, will always embody the true and beautiful spirit of the season: pure and joyous love.

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