December could be a mournful month if I let it be so. Certain days certainly can be difficult. My mother died on this day (15th) in 1987. Every December 15th throws me a bubble off plumb all day – not half a bubble, a whole bubble off.
I had an equally bad December in 1991. That was the year cancer visited our house. My Christmas letter that year started out with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself -I lived through this horror, I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” Then I talked about our child and leukemia.
The first few weeks of December 2000 weren’t great either. We had completed two years of assignment in England, and were being transferred to the Middle East. It wasn’t a move I was looking forward to. The first half of the month was consumed with packing and movers. On December 15 I locked the door of our rental house for the last time, and caught a train into London. With half a day free to do as I wanted, I started walking, and eventually found myself in front of the British Museum. I went inside, and just kept walking. I went from one display to another without any thought about where I was going, and not really paying much attention to what I was seeing. I just knew it was warmer than being outside.
That was when the Magic of December kicked in. I suddenly I found myself in the Egyptian Mummies room. Standing in front of a display of grave goods, I remembered that it was December 15th. I thought about how interested my mom had been in archaeology. I remembered a book she used to show me when I was a kid – Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels – which included pictures of Egypt’s pyramids. I thought about how she had never travelled outside of North America, and never seen most of the things that she showed me in that book.
I spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the British Museum through my mothers eyes. I thought about all the foreign places I had visited – places that my mom only saw in the Complete Book of Marvels. I thought about how ironic it was that I was travelling, which I never intended to do; and she didn’t travel, which she always wanted to do.
The truly magic part of December, for me, is that it doesn’t matter what December dishes out, I still simply love the whole month. I love the music and the lights and the stories and the decorations. I love the magic thought of Santa Claus. I love the prospect of one day a year when most of the world is united in peace, just like that Christmas Day in the trenches in 1914. December is a Magic Month if you let the good bits guide your sleigh…