What are your Christmas traditions? One of mine is starting to become writing an article for the Journal Argus about one of my past holidays. Here is this year’s.
Having lived far from my family and being single, I often looked for people who had nowhere to go to spend Christmas day with them. In fact, if I am at home, I still try to find people who might be alone on Christmas Day. It’s the one day of the year most people don’t want to spend by themselves. But you have to look for them. They usually don’t jump out and say, “I’m alone on Christmas Day. Please, invite me.” Trust me, even if you have a home filled with family, these people will be a blessing to you, just like my friends Vivian and Allan were in the 1980s when they spent Christmas with me in Ottawa.
I had become acquainted with Vivian through a local church in Edmonton. Not having a car, I often picked her up so she could attend some college and career group social events. As time went on, we became friends. Her positive attitude towards life made sure of that. I haven’t mentioned yet that Vivian is blind.
She met Allan at a CNIB event. He was a former truck driver who suddenly woke up one morning blind. I really can’t imagine what a shock this must have been to him. Vivian and Allan enjoyed each other’s company and they decided to get married. There were some who worried how two blind people would manage together in a marriage. Vivian and Allan knew better.
They sold Amway products in order to make ends meet. They were naturals selling the laundry detergent. Black ink would be placed on a white cloth, put into a jar with the laundry soap and shook up. Allan would then deftly pull it out and proclaim, “See? The ink is gone.” And, indeed it was. I immediately bought some soap. Anyone who had that much faith in the product was sure to sell lots of it.
Having been blind since she was eight, Vivian was more comfortable with it. Thus, when it came time to get a seeing-eye dog, Mitzi, Allan was the one who received his new companion.
Wanting to celebrate the extra freedom Mitzi gave him, Allan called me up before Christmas and asked me what I was doing. I had nothing planned, so he asked me if they could come to my place for Christmas. Of course, the answer was yes.
Wanting to make it a special Christmas for them, I decided not to put up my tree until they arrived. I picked Vivian, Allan and Mitzi up at the Ottawa airport on the afternoon of Christmas Eve and whisked them to my place. Allan and Mitzi were certainly a great team together.
After dinner, we put up my artificial tree and started decorating it. I didn’t have many decorations, so we had to improvise a bit with ribbons and bits of paper. I popped some popcorn and we strung it on a thread to make a garland. Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby and Andy Williams put us in the festive mood crooning on their Christmas albums.
When the decorating was done, we made hot chocolate with marshmallows and talked until just before midnight. I then sent everyone to bed, warning them that if they didn’t go, Santa might not come. When everyone retired, I stuffed the stockings with candies and trinkets, making sure that Mitzi had a stocking with some dog biscuits. Exhausted, I finally went to bed.
The next morning, I awoke to the wonderful smell of tea biscuits baking in my kitchen. It quickly dawned on me how talented Vivian was. She had never been in my house, yet without sight, she was able to go to my kitchen and do everything necessary to make scrumptious biscuits.
As I sauntered out of my bedroom through the living room towards the inviting aroma, I quickly scanned the glorious tree and noticed that the bottom part of the popcorn garland was missing. Mitzi stood there, happily wagging her tail. It was as if she said, “Thank you for the delicious Christmas gift.”
After washing down Vivian’s biscuits with coffee or tea, we gathered around the tree and opened our gifts.
Honestly, I don’t have any idea what any of the gifts were. I was well past the age when presents were really important. The real gift was the love that my friends showed me.
Everyone pitched in to help prepare the turkey for dinner. Of course, Mitzi stood there watching. For her dinner, she got the benefit of the organs that were stuffed inside the turkey.
We sat down to our feast, making sure to pull the Christmas crackers, put on the silly hats and collect the little toys. I got to read the jokes that were inside, each one followed by a terrible groan. The only other groans we had that night were after dinner from eating too much.
The rest of the time was spent watching all the traditional television shows one sees at Christmas, listening to more music and chatting.
A few days later, I took them back to the airport and they were gone. I returned to my empty home, thinking of how just hours before it had been filled with laughter and love. Although the laughter didn’t echo from the walls, somehow the glow of love remained.
As Christmases come and go, this was one of the best ever. I must confess that I originally thought of how nice it would be to give two blind people and a dog a happy Christmas. In the end, I realized that I had been the one who had been blind. Christmas is simply about sharing the gift of love, and my friends had come all the way from Edmonton to do that with me. It isn’t just about feeling good about what I give that’s important. If that’s the case, then it’s still about me. It is more about what we share. I will always treasure what I learned from that experience so long ago.