Before I sat to write this year's poem, two thoughts made their way into my mind that I jotted down. The first was "Live by the light of your dreams" and the second was "The opposite of love is fear." The question then was to see how they would work their way into the fabric of this 2013 Christmas tapestry.
I have joked for years with Jeri whenever she would fret about having to come up with a crafts project to make for her volunteer work. "Popsicle sticks made into a box would be nice," I would joke, "Or maybe pipe cleaners twisted into some kind of festive design!" So what happens? Jeri goes to a crafts fair at one of the assisted living facilities nearby and calls me to say, "You'll never guess what they had there. Popsicle stick ornaments!" Naturally, she purchased some.
Fast forward to me working in Manhattan and walking in front of Macy's on 34th Street. It wasn't even nighttime yet and the huge "Believe" in lights on the front of the building just dominated all else. I had to snap a picture.
The final part of the story came when one Sunday night I went to bed at a very reasonable hour, knowing full well that I had to be up and alert for conference calls in the morning. Falling asleep with little problem, I suddenly awoke at 4 am and was incredibly restless, my brain "buzzing" with feelings, ideas and unable to settle back down. As I lay there, the thought of a kid making a mess while decorating Popsicle sticks flew into mind; a Christmas ornament... he's making an ornament while his mother laughs and takes it all in. Get up and write it down. That was the compelling thought.
In the dark, I snapped on one light at my desk and grabbed a legal pad and pen. The first four verses practically wrote themselves in a flash. Then over the next two hours (and now, the sun was out), the two ideas that I had previously jotted down worked their way into the mix. Tired and happy, I grabbed an hour's nap before my work day began. The poem was done and in a way that I had never experienced before.
All I had to do was borrow one of those ornaments from Jeri and catch the inspiration for the picture on the front cover. I confess, it was great fun! "Believe" became the natural "final word" on the back cover and the concept had become reality for the 36th consecutive year.
Sometimes I am asked if I have any doubt if I will be able to come up with another take on the holiday for purposes of writing yet another poem. Years ago, I would have admitted to a shred of doubt as it had come close several times. But not anymore...
I watched with a smile as a child
Sprinkled glitter of silver and blue.
As he created a sparkly ornament
Out of Popsicle sticks and glue.
He laughed and beheld his creation
Over which he had both worked and played.
That joy would be shared by his mother
Through this precious gift, handmade.
My mind left that scene as I turned back
To my holiday list to combat.
Yet the joy of that child would not leave me;
When did we lose all of that?
My answer took all but a second
As a shopper stormed by in a huff,
Shaking her head and muttering,
“It’s simply just not good enough.”
Those three simple words separate us
From our light and all we hold dear.
For the opposite of love isn’t hatred;
The opposite of love is fear.
The gift that this child had proffered me
Was recalling a choice like a prayer;
To step off the road of self-judgment,
Coming home to find myself there.
Thirty-six years I’ve sat for this poem,
Never knowing where each one would start.
What I’ve learned is to trust in the guidance
That arrives when I open my heart.
May the light of the season gently guide you
To the place where it still lives and beams.
May your heart be always loving and joyful
And may you live by the light of your dreams.