In the last weeks leading up to Christmas, I received unexpected gifts under my virtual tree, the only tree I had since I refused to buy a real one. I just couldn’t face decorating it, without the steady eye of Julia watching from her bouncy seat.
I’m finding tho’, much to my stubborn refusal to find the good in this situation the good shows up anyway, poking me in the heart and eye until I blink.
Monday, Beryl one of my oldest and best friends, took me out to dinner for my birthday, a last-minute meal before she departed to Cali for the holidays. So I not only had great conversation with one of best friends, she, with her excellent taste ordered a Chianti that knocked me on my butt.
Tuesday, I made dinner for my friend Penny, (another last-minute catch up before the holidays.) It left me in a good enough mood, and resolve, to open a box from another old friend, Diana. For years she’d fed me a steady stream of lovely hand knit gifts. Inside this box I knew was a gift for Julia, and that made the carton and the act of opening it very heavy. After three of four days of ignoring the parcel, I took a gulp of red wine, grabbed a pair of scissors from the kitchen drawer and cut the thick packing tape from the surface of the carton.
The sweater was an expected thrill. I’ve seen the handily work of Ms. Bernardino before, but the cap, snow-white with little turquoise dots, launched a warm glow in my chest, in fact increasing my hope. As a modest knitter, I know, or can at least imagine, the attention one needs to craft such a pattern. Diana had faith that Julia would come and it reminded me to keep doing the same.
Wednesday, a few friends at work gave me gifts for Julia, wrapped and bowed, a mini baby shower, in the last place on the earth I’d expected one, a New York City ad agency. Their kindness, in the midst of crafting ad copy, rippled through me like warm silk strength by the hands of Heather, Rebecca and Kate.
At night another old friend Debbie invited me to hear Handel’s Messiah with her sister and nephew—music made to revive tired souls. I’ve hummed the chorus for days now.
Thursday, I gave up the belief that I would get a last-minute call from the international social worker to run to Ethiopia and bring my daughter home. There would be no Hollywood ending to this story this Christmas. But I remembered not to put a period where God has place a comma, has I heard my minister say once.
Friday, I tried to watch Pirate Radio, and found the storyline too trite, too hackney, too… well too. Movies about lard-assed guys getting laid by beautiful thin women always seem to get green-lighted. (Thank God, the same team made Love Actually so I could still muster respect for them.) But what DVD I actually took to, The Sorrow and the Pity, a documentary on the Nazi occupation of France, all four hours of it, served a spiritual purpose I cannot identify, but was very grateful for. It answered many questions I had about France during the Second World War, the Vichy government, collaborators, resistance makers, and how the shearing of a woman’s head can serve as the ultimate indignity— the mark of a traitor.
But this morning, I found under my virtual tree the best gifts of all this season. New Sight. The gifts arrived in the form of e-mails one from Diana, the knitting wonder.
A good writer knows, when you come across a great thought you just quote it, rather than paraphrase. So here’s the email, in part:
I’m so sorry your still waiting for Tayech to come home.
So today (Christmas) is the day that “The Church,” in all of its infinite wisdom, has decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Historically speaking, it’s more likely that he was born in spring. The early church, being in minority in those days, wanted to piggyback onto the Winter Solstice celebration. So they “moved” the birth of the foretold Messiah to a more convenient pagan holiday. Can you imagine waiting for thousands of years for a savior to be born, and then deciding that the day he enters this universe isn’t conducive to converting the masses? What the heck, lets move his birthday to December 25, when the masses are already celebrating. That way they’ll get used to sharing the Winter Solstice with Jesus. Over time we (the “church”) can take over the celebration altogether. The masses will forget the winter solstice and December 25 will simply be the birth of Jesus. This poor man who was whipped to within an inch of his life, forced to carry his own cross through the mob filled streets, and then crucified for our redemption. And after all that, he still wasn’t allowed to keep his true birthday. That’s politics for you.
Tayech’s second birth, her homecoming, seems to have also fallen victim to similar politics. It’s not the first time in human history this has happened. I’m sure it won’t be the last. HAVE FAITH! I’ll keep praying for you.
I read those words, as the bus bumped its way across the Tribourgh Bridge (RFK Memorial Bridge to all you forward thinkers, ) I realized that for weeks, I’d searched for something to make me feel better. Now it had found me.
Then I opened a second e-mail from Beryl. Inside was a link to a New York Times Op–Ed piece by Bob Hebert. Again, I’ve enclosed it, rather than trying to write the Cliff Notes for it.
Not only well crafted, it contained an insight that spoke deeply to me. Millions of people love Aretha Franklin music. I attended her father’s church as a child, went to Sunday School with her two sons, saw her sitting in the pews when she wasn’t touring, heard her sing when she was so moved before the congregation of New Bethel Baptist Church. I sat on my front porch of my home, a Band- Aid tattooed little girl and listened as Aretha recorded her gospel album Amazing Grace in the 1970s. Her music has been a salve for unspeakable hurts in the past, now I knew I just need to go through my CD’s and memory bank and find the right song to keep me going until I board the plane to Ethiopia.