It doesn’t matter who you are, if you have lived long enough, you will have had at least one year where everything can and does go wrong in every aspect of one’s life. If you are old enough to find this blog somewhat entertaining, then I venture you’ve lived through more than one catastrophic year.
For me, 2006 was one of those years. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, they did. The details don’t really matter. It is important enough to know it was what I consider the worst year of my adulthood.
By the time Christmas rolled around, I was down about as low as I could be. I wasn’t in the mood for Christmas; I just wanted to get it over with, which is highly unlike me. Yet, frustration ran high and patience was short. There was no joy in Mudville.
Then my sister announced she was inviting her boyfriend George to our traditional–closed to the outside world–Cerf Family Christmas Celebration. No interlopers had been let in before, and given what a crappy year it had been, I certainly didn’t want to deal with an outsider ruining tradition.
Now, I had absolutely no reason not to trust and welcome George. He was about the nicest guy I had ever met. Without even really knowing me, he and my sister helped me move from South Dakota back to the Chicagoland area. I owed him at least the benefit of the doubt at Christmas, but I wasn’t in a very charitable mood that year.
Besides, it is written in “The Great & Ancient Codex of the Sacred Brotherhood of Brotherhood” in Chapter 7 “Little Sisters” Rule #1: “Thou shalt not befriend thy little sister’s boyfriends, as thou mightest be called upon to smite him with thy fists one day.”
So it is written. So it has been for millennia. So it shall remain.
For our lawyer friends keeping track, this rule 7:1, as it is more commonly referred to in “The Great & Ancient Codex of the Sacred Brotherhood of Brotherhood,” is indexed under rule 2:13 which states: “Thou may relentlessly torment thy siblings with impunity, so long as ye beateth the face of any bully who shall, ever-so-foolishly, lay a hand upon thy siblings.”
And so, it was with a sense of foreboding and dread that I (and other unnamed actors in this drama) waited for the fateful arrival of Vanessa and George. We agreed to be civil. We bought George presents so that he’d feel welcome and a part of the festivities,Â but we also secretly anticipated some form of monumental fail. All but Vanessa, of course.
Christmas morning arrived and we began to show up at my parents’ home in our finest holiday attire. Ness and George were the last to arrive, after the presents had been strewn under the tree, the bowls of pistachios and candies laid out, the stockings bulging with the bounty from Santa, Christmas music on the stereo, cats high on catnip, the house fully bedecked with the cheer of the day…no matter how unsunny I felt.
George’s eyes boggled at the splendor of it all. As it turned out, his family Christmases were not quite as festive, and this grown man was overcome by the wide-eyed wonderment of a child. He dove in to Cerf Christmas traditions with wild abandon most of us had seemingly outgrown years before. His joy at being included in our event was undeniable, and this Grinch, whose heart was feeling two sizes too small that year, began to feel his heart swell at the sight of George’s happiness.
George loved his presents and he, wanting to impress his girlfriend’s family…a prospect we all failed to consider…gave far greater bounty. Then it was on to the snacks and stockings. When that was done, Mom was putting the roast in the oven and George seemed to exclaim, “Wait! You mean there is more food?!”
He exuded pure, raw, unadulterated joy. It was gleefully infectious and spread over all of us, revitalizing a Christmas spirit in me that I had thought was long lost to the miseries of that year and cynicism of midlife. My life might have seemed bad that year, but this served as a great reminder how good I truly had it, in spite of the hardships. It was the greatest gift he could possibly give, and it is one of the best I have ever received.
Luckily for all of us, George has been present for every Christmas since. He and my sister were married, and they have given us an even greater Christmas gift since: my nearly 3-year-old nephew Max.
Christmas 2006 remains one of my absolute favorites, and I hope you find that type of wonderment and joy this Christmas, too!