Christmas Presents

Dusty, Mindy, Bear and I made it home safely, driving over La Veta Pass, listening to punk and new wave Christmas songs. That was lovely. No traffic, either, no big trucks slowing things down and making people do stupid stuff like pass when they shouldn’t.

Christmas in Colorado Springs was beautiful in the way Christmas has of surprising us.

A little backstory. I spent six of the worst years of my life in that town as an adolescent. It was the darkest time of my family’s life. Soon after we moved there from six years in Nebraska where my dad worked for SAC, my dad got a terrible eye infection that signaled the beginning of a rapid decline from MS. Six years later he was dead. During those six years my mom, brother and I tried to grapple with our own rapidly changing lives and that immense sad change.

When I left Colorado Springs for good in 1972, I never, ever wanted to go back. But in 2004, I did go back to give a paper at the conference of the Interdisciplinary Society for the Study of Social Imagery. It happened that the room in which I gave my paper had a window overlooking the locus of a very happy memory of my time there. I began to think the town was trying to tell me something. When I returned in 2010 for my high school reunion, more of what someone might call “healing messages” came my way. In 2013 when I returned again to give a paper, I looked for houses and scattered my brother’s ashes. I came back in 2014 to give yet ANOTHER paper. I looked again at houses, but I wasn’t ready to buy. I had not retired; I did not know what my income would be. But, after looking at houses that day, I filed my retirement papers… Living in Colorado Springs was not to be. By the time I was able to retire, I could no longer afford a home there.

That turned out to be lucky break. I’d rather live in the San Luis Valley than anywhere else in this country. 🙂 ❤ I’m always happy to get to the west side of the pass and the sign that says, “You are entering the San Luis Valley.” It was right for me to find a new home, my own place, somewhere untinged and beautiful.

And, Colorado Springs remains haunted. The people I know have not moved far from “memory central.” Some are in the same neighborhood where my family first lived. A little part of me still dreads the city, but mixed with dread are beautiful memories that more and more involve people I know now. It’s good. It’s an enormous blessing to me.

I got presents this Christmas, really lovely ones, the best ones, the kind that show your friends know you. One very precious present is a set of paint brushes given me by my friend Lois’ husband, Michael. Michael got macular degeneration when he was very young, and lost his sight gradually over the years. That, in itself, is harsh, but to top that off, he was a painter. This morning in my Christmas stocking, I found his brushes, bound together with a rubber band.

Last night we were driving home from the amazing cocktail party my friend Lois put together and held at her brother’s house. The party was a true labor of love that took more than 24 hours to prepare.

As we were going home, I said to Michael, “I wish so much you could see.”

“I do too,” he said. “You know what we’d do if I could see? We’d have painting parties. Lois and I would come down and visit you in that beautiful valley, and we’d go outside some place and paint it. Have you ever done that?”

I wonder if, in the night, after our conversation, he played Santa with his brushes.

“I thought a real artist should be using them,” he said this morning. “They shouldn’t be lying around in a box. I bet you even know what to do with that Chinese brush.”

“I do,” I told him.

“I thought you would,” he said.

I will cherish them and not only because they are his; they’re great brushes!!

I know it’s all about giving, but this year, the giving of others has meant a lot to me. Up in that photo is homemade chokecherry/apple jelly (my favorite), Michael’s brushes, my new watercolor pencils — Swiss made and my favorite kind, a Sacajawea dollar with the Code Talkers on the back, and a sheep — a goofy, half-joking, memorial to Hellnarian memories of Iceland.

Thank you all my friends for such a wonderful Christmas. ❤

10 thoughts on “Christmas Presents

  1. I am glad you had such a good Christmas. That was so well written I almost got damp eyes when I was finished, not quite, just almost. Caran d‘ache – a Swiss household word. By the way did you know that the word „caran d‘ache“ is Russian for pencil

    • At first I thought “caran” was like crayon, d’ache? No idea. My friend Adriano gave them to me. I only needed six specific color, but this present is so sweet. I actually use the set of 40 he had with him when he came to America in 1993. ❤ I love them. In my experience no other watercolor pencils are their equal.

  2. Sometimes I think that Christmas isn’t so much about giving or getting, but about cherishing. Remembering, seeing, feeling with gratitude. It can be difficult to consider life without hitting hard on what we, and our loved ones, have lost. We need constant reminders of the beauty and sweetness. Thank you for this passage…

  3. How completely delightful, special and touching. What a delightful moment to cherish now and forever and I so agree with Patrick Murphy. Moments to cherish are beautiful and rare and all the more special as a result. I’m happy knowing you had a wonderful Christmas.

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