My wish for Christmas

I am compelled to take photos of old abandoned houses. I can’t help myself.
I used to have my camera in my car specifically for this purpose whenever I was behind the wheel. Now I have an iPhone that simplifies the process, though the quality of my photos may have slipped into serious decline.
I’m especially drawn to those derelict buildings whose front doors hang by one hinge, ajar, as if saying to me there is nothing to hide; the story has found its end and the details are beneath the crumbling walls and sagging roof.
The door is open or missing, the family gone, taking with them the private bits of their lives.
That open door pulls me in, without invitation, but I walk in and while I’m there, I create the pieces in my mind that are the lost story.
This time of year, there is an urgency in my imagination to reclaim the forgotten tales, the unfinished sentences; to bring those families back to life and retell their story more perfectly, more simply, as if the time they lived in was devoid of the clutter we now experience.
But that is the perfection of remembering; the perfection of nostalgia.
The clutter then was a different sort of clutter. It was a climate of another time, the weather as uncertain and changing, unreliable at times, dangerous, and, of course, calm in moments. But it is a time that pulls on me, as if I may have been born in the wrong era—a slip-up in the master plan.
I imagine the lives, the family gathering at the supper table, not letting the day’s frustrations and hardship spoil the meal, the children whispering this time of year with an excited energy that is Christmas—one thing only on their wish list; one thing hoped for with eyes closed tight.
A pair of cap guns, a doll that cries, an orange, crayons. Nothing extravagant or requiring batteries, just some little thing that will change the day.
But it is in the wanting that changes the day, not in the having. Oh, the glorious ache of waiting and wishing. That is the essence of Christmas for a child—the crawling beneath the lit Christmas tree, the other lights off, to fall asleep, to dream.
This particular family that I imagine in the tumble down house, before it was tumbling down, doesn’t bother with a décor that requires a theme, a matching colour palette; it is function only that matters.
I like the common sense of that; I almost need it. Perhaps there is no almost. The mantle with a candle and pine or balsam bows, construction paper chains in red and green, popcorn and cranberries threaded in a long garland, melted crayon wax paper stained glass cards, treasures created by little hands.
I hope for a quiet Christmas. A soft one filled with memories, gentle music, uncontained laughter, and hugs that never want to end.
wendistewart@live.ca

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