A lifetime of Christmas memories meld into a swirl of yearning that pulls at my heart like taffy and melts like chocolate into a puddle of longing. As though it were the glob of molten candy my mother used to drop into ice water, this holiday feels condensed.
Stories of the season flood my thoughts with their pathos and beauty.
My own Christmas story is in there somewhere ready to emerge.
This year my children and their families will remain miles away. There will be no Dollywood tradition. Those days fled with my son’s childhood.
Dolly says to figure out who you are and do it on purpose. I’ve done that, yet my finished manuscript will, for the time being, remain unpublished. It’s the best decision, for the good of others, but I need to tuck my soul into a winter coverlet thick enough to absorb the ache.
Tears wet my pillow.
It’s time to rest deep in a Love that has no measure. It’s time to wait on the Lord.
I wake to sunlight and a phone call. My son, who, until now, has never spent Christmas away, is headed to the ski slopes with a friend. It’s not our festive theme park, but it’s a prayer answered.
A text message pops up with an unexpected invitation from fellow writers. I accept and drive over. We watch a Christmas movie, sip tea, and just be.
My friend’s son arrives home from first-year college. He hugs his mom. They talk classes. I’m happy for her, yet I blink back moisture. He hugs her again. Yes, our big boys miss their moms, even if they won’t admit it.
When I get back home, my youngest daughter calls to schedule a family visit in March.
Later, another phone call from my eldest draws us into conversation of goals and ministry and her journey of love.
I wrap final gifts for my husband’s siblings. We will be with them on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I’m grateful for their inclusion.
I plan the meal for another day, close to New Years, when my children and grandchildren by marriage will join us. Around here, we save the best until last.
I begin supper. A hearty stew bubbles on the stove. The table is set. Candles are lit. I chose a country Christmas album and Dolly tells me she’ll be fine and dandy.
My husband arrives with overnight guests. It’s been a long day—a long flight. I can offer food, clean sheets, and a hug. I can just be myself.
Thanks, Father, for drying my tears. For friends. For family. Thanks, for a season of soul hibernation. Joy may seem to lie dormant, but life will awaken. Thanks for reminding me of who I am. Give me the courage to keep doing it on purpose.
And thanks, Dolly, for your inspiration.
Looks like this will be a hard candy Christmas after all.
Looks like I’ll be fine and dandy too.