You know the feeling—it's exhilarating that the holidays are coming, yet as much as we want to invest ourselves in the warmth & good cheer that the season brings, we feel that clock ticking . . . There are presents to buy, gifts to wrap, incoming relatives from out of town, meals to prepare, the list is endless!
I was already buckling from the stress. So when a friend called me for a brief "sanity check," I was only too happy to help a comrade in the domestic trenches by listening to her woes. In her case, she had a mother-in-law staying with her who she dearly loves, BUT who's a chain-smoking & demanding Queen Bee who recently had chemotherapy along with every other illness & complication on the planet, AND who fell down when she tried to disembark from a train & broke three ribs & now requires constant attention. (Can you spell T-R-A-I-N W-R-E-C-K?) The very fact that this woman has a terrific sense of humor and a will of iron only makes the whole situation more difficult because you love her to death even as you find yourself wishing you could choke her!
But what became decidedly unfamiliar was the moment that I spotted my friend in the parking lot at the grocery store at the very same time I was talking to her on my cell phone! We both stared at each other in disbelief and began to laugh. This has never happened to me before, and it felt like a truly odd incident of synchronicity that we were at the exact same place at the exact same time.
But that didn't even compare to the synchronicity of who walked beside us at that moment. It was none other than . . .
(With a smile as big as Texas.)
I know she was Mrs. Claus because who else wears holiday pajamas and a Santa hat to the grocery store, complete with matching red socks and a festive mink stole with a glittering holiday brooch when it's over sixty degrees outside?
When Mrs. Claus spotted us, she smiled even bigger and said, "Why, hello there!" like she knew us.
Good god, she probably does! And I bet she knows when we've been naughty or nice, too!
My friend and I couldn't help ourselves—the woman was such a bundle of warmth and joy that we had to walk alongside her to the grocery store, absorbing her blithe holiday spirit. This woman didn't give a rip what anyone thought of her bizarre get-up (did I mention it was only 8:30 am? Her outfit was so bright she could've stopped traffic). And what was even sweeter was when my friend remarked on her luxurious mink stole, the woman said, "Oh, I've had this for over 40 years. Do you want to feel it?"
Of course we did! We wanted to touch something warm and soft during a holiday season that had turned harsh on us and just fill ourselves with this woman's generosity & joy. (I did feel bad for the minks, but at least her coat was vintage!) And in soon order we found ourselves grinning from ear to ear. This woman was so cuddly that I suddenly felt my heart jerk & realized I didn't want to let her go. In a snap she had relieved all the stress of the holiday season and made us feel oddly generous and warm hearted again. So I asked her if I could take her picture to remember her. And she said "Sure honey. My name's Birdie—I don't know why, I just always attract a lot of birds."
Whoa. Do real people say things like that?
I'm going to be honest with you—at that moment, I began to wonder if she was an angel. Last time I checked, only Snow White and angels attract feathered friends who hover around them for no rational reason. And once we departed from her side, I never saw her in the store again.
Was Birdie an angel who'd been sent to bolster our spirits and remind us that the real reason we celebrate the holidays during this season is for the chance to share our joy? It's impossible to say. But I do know that after our brief encounter with her, my friend and I were able to have a cup of coffee and laugh about our woes, and then—miracle beyond miracles—we were actually able to look forward to facing the holiday season. So whether she was an angel or Mrs. Claus or not, the one thing I do know is that I am back to enjoying the prospect of the holidays once again—a blessing indeed. And I sincerely do believe . . .