I have probably the most beautiful Christmas stocking imaginable. It was crafted by a dear friend who loved me and believed the best of me. I will post a photo of the stocking later, but for now, trust me; it is a superb piece of craftsmanship and artistry that pays tribute to our friendship and her awareness of the strength and beauty of women.
She gave me this stocking when I was feeling bereft. Lucky children believe that everything is possible at Christmas; that they are gifted with an infinite amount of love from everyone from their siblings to their parents to some strange old man with a flowing white beard. My Christmases were like that until I was fifty-five ... long after I should have outgrown such childish notions.
My father, who was a dreadful parent for 364 days a year became the perfect parent at Christmas, even after I was long past needing that kind of reassurance. My partner of eighteen years continued to coccoon me at Christmas in that magical generosity. When I was fifty-five, my father died and my "closest thing to a good marriage" broke apart. And when I lost those two men, Christmas shattered too.
I was living with a decent man when Linda gave me this stocking, but he didn't believe in Christmas. In fact he did (and does) everything a little ass backwards. He gives beautiful gifts of love to women when the relationships have drifted apart or once they have ended. I own an absolutely beautiful diamond studded gold band that he gave me as I was leaving that relationship. He gave me the money to see Pat in England years after we split up. But he never gave me a Christmas or birthday gift ... not once in the seven years we were together. And, even worse, he threw away any I gave him.
Every Christmas since I received that stocking I have hung it up by whatever was acting as a chimney that year in that place, but except for one year when the family got together at Christmas and exchanged stocking gifts, the only thing the stocking has held are pieces of paper. Some of those pieces pre-date the stocking.
The earliest is dated January 1, 1993. I wanted to live simply and travel much.
1994 was the year Pumpkin, the groundhog we had over-wintered, awoke on New Year's Day and came into the house for a visit and a meal before returning to her hibernation for the rest of the winter. It contained wishes for 1994, the last full year I was really happy and content in a good relationship.
I wished for enough money to retire ... and got it when my father died in early 1995. I wished for interesting travel opportunities and went to Namibia for six months in 1995 .. and left my truly happy un-marriage of 18 years. I wished for family togetherness (we are awfully far-flung these days) and a brother-in-law's recovery from cancer (he died). My last wish was for a career opportunity that was un-threatening ... and I certainly have that now. I guess overall the message is that you should be careful what you wish for.
1995's wishes were filled with plans to make money in fulfilling ways so that my partner and I could continue to be happy ... most did not pan out ... and I left him that year.
In 1997 I was with Roy but hadn't moved to the farm despite the pressure he was applying. I wanted to lose 10 pounds, follow up on volunteer opportunities ... and move toward marriage. Yes ... he had asked me to marry him.
The next year I wrote up one of these was 2000 ... I wrote an essay on world events. This was followed by a treatise on how my life was changed by significant events in each decade of my life. I stopped reading somewhere in page one and skimmed till I got to the last short paragraph on what I hoped to accomplish in 2000.
I wanted to finish the novel I was working on while we were in Eleuthera ... and I had great hopes for getting it published. I finished it but got nowhere with the publishing part.
I wanted a Project Overseas assignment ... and didn't get it ... but got other work with Mongolian teachers.
I had some ideas about doing some research on another novel set in Nova Scotia ... something about Springhill ... it fizzled.
In December 2003 I wrote about wanting my own place again, about returning to Mongolia, about helping the kids in Kenya, and returning to Kenya and to serious writing. I have done all those things.
December 17, 2004
"Don't let anyone tell you what you should or shouldn't be dreaming about. You have bigger goals in life than some people realize. What you need is someone by your side who has big goals too." I have no idea where that originated but I kind of wish I had found him.
My goals included writing more, exercising more, getting a dog, and returning to Kenya.
There was a list of ten commandments about men ... the most important ones: expect the best and don't settle for less ... and learn to rejoice in singlehood.
I wrote that I must become at peace with myself and my life; that I had to relax and slow down and be part of the natural world to get there. I wondered if I had to discover what I needed and live my life as animals do ... simply ... following my real needs. I cautioned myself to stop leaving so that I could arrive ... to stop dashing off to other places in the world and outside my life ... to come home to myself. I was 64 when I wrote that. Too soon old; too late smart!
In 2005, my son advised me to use my imagination and spirit of adventure to find my life partner. I wrote that I was coming closer to the kind of inner peace I had written about the year before. I wrote about how I liked living in a place that was easily accessible to my friends ... certainly Westboro was a lot handier than the hermitage is. But I was beginning to think about moving out to the lake.
There was no toe of the stocking in 2006 ... I was a nomad that Christmas.
In 2007, I was living in my partly finished hermitage with Kenya. I had met and finished things quickly with a man called Tom. I hadn't loved him but he gave me hope that some day I might find love.
I was looking forward to the summer of 2008 when I would have to become a nomad for the summer. I was planning how I might spend the two months. I thought of returning to Kenya to work with SAIPEH. But what I really wanted to find was an all-consuming project ... I wanted soemthing that would grab me by the throat and not let go.
In 2008, I wrote that I still wanted that but that I would settle for a continuation of what I had right then ... a lot of little unimportant projects that kept me happily occupied ... my blog, knitting, felting, pottery, friends, family, dogs, this house ... I ended by writing that I was pulling in the perimeter of my scope to fit my energy levels, and that I was discovering that I was happiest when things were simplest.
So now we are coming to the end of 2009, and I will be adding a new scrap of paper to the toe of the stocking. I will be looking back on the year that included a creative interest that grabbed me by the throat, a 50,000 word marathon novel writing experience, and a trip to London to visit a seriously ill friend. I am not sure what I will be writing, but I suspect that inner peace, and creative pursuits that don't tax my resources too much will be part of it.
What will you be putting in the toe of your stocking as this year ends?