As a child, I confess I found Christmas gifts wildly exciting. (Maybe I was a pre-diamond-cut version of myself?) As an adult, though, human beings are my steady focus of excitement.
Our Christmas Eve last night was a dinner party that Thor and I hosted for my brother Mick visiting from California, a long-time friend, and two new friends — both single men without family in the area. The evening was rife with laughter, animated conversation, teasing (“oh no, not fruitcake!”) and good, homemade comfort food (“But what IS polenta?” ” Kind of like mashed potatoes — give it a try!”)
The two guests who were completely new to me clearly felt comfortable and happy to be here. My husband, brother and friend of 26 years became yet closer and more dear to me. Everybody got along beautifully. The background here is that countless times in my earlier, single life I was hosted on holidays by a variety of warm people who welcomed me into their homes, as my family of origin was a thousand miles away. I got to experience home away from home — when I could have been lonely and isolated instead. I am so grateful to those many people who created community in their homes over the years of my life. It was as if I, a stranger, was simply a friend they hadn’t yet met.
Now it’s my turn to be them. I’m now the one who gets to be the giver, the non-traditional matriarch who sets the stage for community, who greets new people at the door with smiles and double-handed handshakes and says good-bye hours later, clasping them to me in a warm embrace.
The other day when playing the UnGame here at our house, my nine year old friend Jeremiah pulled a card with the question, “What is your favorite place to be in the world, and why?”
“Here,” he said without hesitation. “Because I feel so good when I’m here.”
Quite a Christmas gift to me and my passion for community.