Birthday Present

December is my favourite month of the year. The sound of lawn mowers and the scent of fresh cut grass, the cool”Christmas breeze” stroking my skin and ruffling my hair, clear blue skies and lush green everywhere after the October rains, and the first Christmas carol on the radio are things I look forward to all year long. For the past 3 decades these things have never failed to lift my spirits and fill my heart with gratitude as I look forward to celebrating my birthday followed by Christmas, and then that gateway between the end and the beginning: New Year’s Eve and Day. Regardless of what else was going on, December in my life has always been a time of anticipation, thanksgiving and a letting go of some of the old and familiar past, and trying to embrace the new and sometimes scary future.

This year, it seems climate change took away my Christmas breeze. Weedwackers don’t sound the same as lawnmowers, and somehow weedwacked grass doesn’t smell the same. Our downstairs radio/music player gave up the ghost sometime in November after an impressive bout of ballistic snaps crackles and pops, and emanation of smoke. So there have been no Christmas carols as neither the radio nor the vast playlists my husband has assembled over the years are accessible to me without said tuner device. Even if I had paid attention when hubby was trying to show me how to play the music through the home computer, somehow I was not in the mood to even listen to Christmas music.

To top it all off, thanks to , as we say in Jamaica, a “crystallised” thermostat housing in my trusty Ford Escape, my ritual of going to the plaza in Constant Spring to buy my real Christmas tree (as opposed to the plastic impostors that seem to have proliferated beyond belief) was completely derailed. So my much anticipated break from work began with an ailing car, and an empty tank of Christmas (or in my case December) spirit.

For the past 3 weeks I have walked around on the verge of tears: tears of sadness at the way this December my favourite month of the year was turning out, and tears of anger at myself for dwelling on the negatives instead of being grateful for all that I had…for example my health. So the universe struck another blow, and 3 days before my birthday I came down with what I figure is my customary end of the year respiratory infection. Apparently the one I had in November was not the real thing, only an impostor, lulling me into a false sense of security that I could tick off the “get sick” item on my December to do list. I thought well at least one of my December traditions is right on track…though of all the things I had come to consider my traditions, this was one I would have let go most willingly.

So, the night before my 46th birthday, with a headache that had lasted all day, I showered, changed into fresh pyjamas, did a steam inhalation (in the hopes of getting relief from pain in my head), applied my Olbas oil, and went to bed. I had resigned myself to being sick in body, and worse in spirit as I could not shake off the feeling of being deprived of all of my customary rituals and markers that made this time of year one that I looked forward to. I wanted to cry but didn’t only because I was afraid it would make my headache worse, and I was in no state to bear any more pain.

On the morning of December 22, as I opened my eyes the first thing I noticed was the absence of pain. My headache seemed to have gone, and even after a quick trip to the bathroom, it did not return. Beside me in the bed, my husband stirred, woke up and went to use the bathroom too. When he came back, he wished me happy birthday, and asked how I was feeling. I reported that the headache seemed to have departed, but I was feeling cold. So he got back in bed to share the warmth and comfort of his arms  with me. Then he started teasing me about my small head, hands and feet, and his serious doubts as to the ability of those small feet to support my body. So I countered with “Well I guess it’s a good thing I only have a small head, which can be supported by small feet”…and the conversation quickly evolved into a serious discussion of ridiculousness which he and I do very well. Before I knew it I was laughing so hard I started coughing…and just like that my beloved husband has made the sun come out again for me again. The clouds and rain that were lurking behind my eyelids and in my heart for the past 3 weeks started to dissipate. My 46th birthday began with this gift of sunshine from my husband.

As my day progressed, I reflected on Decembers past, and realised how grateful I was to have been able to celebrate 35 of them with my father. There was a December 10 years ago when I had neither father nor mother to celebrate with, and I reflected on how grateful I am that my mother has chosen to actively fight loneliness, depression and the physical creaks of getting older to still be here for Decembers present and hopefully many in the future. I remembered Decembers past when I took the presence of my sister in my life for granted, and then how much I miss not having her physical presence to share in the December shenanigans in recent times. The progress that has produced  weedwhackers also provided email, Skype and Whatsapp. Thanks to these modern day conveniences that we often take for granted, my sister and I can still share our personal dramas and bear witness in each other’s lives, though there are more miles than can be traveled by a car (even an enterprising Samurai)between us.

I thought about the 16 Decembers past that I have enjoyed with my daughters, from diaper bags and non-choking hazard Christmas tree decorations, to them actually decorating the tree and wrapping all the presents for the family. This December, with all its lack of usual Christmas rituals, I was overwhelmed with emotion as I recalled my younger daughter notice my frustration and angst in the bookshop while Christmas shopping, and put down the book she was engrossed in to come and stand beside me, ask me if I am okay and follow me around so that I didn’t feel like I was shopping all alone. My heart overflowed when I heard my older daughter declare “When I was little, Christmas was exciting because of the presents. But now that I am older, I realise that I don’t really need a lot of stuff. So what I look forward to is seeing and spending time family that we don’t see everyday.” In Decembers to come, these two amazing human beings that I helped to put on this earth will not always be with me in body…and suddenly I realised grateful I am for December present.

Once the sun comes out, it is much easier to see what is important and what is not. As my day progressed, and my cold improved, so did my spirit. I realised that the true joy of December for me is not about the rituals and traditions I was trying so hard to hold on to.  Those things are the gift wrap and ribbons for the real presents. The December spirit I was searching for was not in the fragrance of fresh cut grass and Christmas trees, but in the amazing, life-affirming people that have blessed my life, beginning at home with my family. The gift of being loved, and having people to love is one that endures beyond global warming and crystallised compromised thermostat housings in geriatric cars. This December my greatest gift has been without a doubt my husband who managed to make the sun come out for me so I could appreciate all the rest of the bounty of love I have been blessed with.

One thought on “Birthday Present

  1. Andre Gayle

    Your posts always hit me just off to the left side of the center of my chest! I am going to follow suit – be thankful for all I have and for all the positives that are taking place.


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