Some people are born storytellers. That’s why I have been, along with millions of others, a fan of Robert Fulghum. His short essays nearly always manage to touch my heart and remind me of what really matters in my life. So although I know we all have a lot on our mind with the holidays unfolding around us, I thought I’d share one of his short stories that will lead to what I am guessing we all hope to experience this holiday—and into 2021.
“One year I didn’t receive many Christmas cards. One fetid February afternoon this troublemaking realization actually came to me out of the backroom in my head that is the source of useless information. Guess I needed some reason to really feel crummy, so there it was. But I didn’t say anything about it. I can take it, I’m tough. I won’t complain when my cheap friends don’t even care enough to send me a stupid Christmas card. I can do without love. Right.
The following August I was nesting in the attic trying to establish some order in the mess and found stacked in with the holiday decorations a whole box of unopened greeting cards from the previous Christmas. I had tossed them into the box to open at leisure, and then ran out of leisure in the shambles of the usual holiday panic, they got caught up in the bale-it-up-and-stuff-it-in-the-attic-and-we’ll-straighten-it-out-next-year syndrome.
I hauled the box down, and on a hot summer day, middle of August, mind you, in my bathing suit, sitting in a lawn chair on my deck, with sunglasses, cocoa butter, a quart of iced tea, and a puzzled frame of mind, I began to open my Christmas cards. I had put a tape of Christmas carols on the portable stereo and cranked up the volume.
Here it all was. Angels, snow, Wise Men, candles and pine boughs, horses and sleighs, the Holy Family, elves and Santa. Heavy messages about love and joy and peace and goodwill. If that wasn’t enough there were all those handwritten messages of affection from my cheap friends who had, in fact, come through for the holidays.
I cried. Seldom have I felt so bad and so good at the same time. So wonderfully rotten, elegantly sad, and melancholy and nostalgic and all. Bathos. Utter bathos.
As fate always seems to have it, I was discovered in this condition by a neighbor, who had been attracted to the scene by the sound of Christmas caroling. She laughed. I showed her the cards. She cried. And we had this outrageous Christmas ordeal right there on my deck in the middle of August, singing along with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to the finely mighty strains of “Oh Holy Night.” “Faaalll on your kneeees, O heeeeer the angel vooiiicees.”
What can I say? I guess wonder and awe and joy are always there in the attic of one’s mind somewhere, and it doesn’t take a lot to set it off. And much about Christmas is outrageous, whether it comes to you in December of late August.”
So matter how you celebrate the holiday this year, perhaps it would be SMART for us each to take time to experience a few things that are sure to make this holiday special—they are wonder, awe, joy and the outrageousness of just being alive. And aren’t they some of the most important gifts of all?
- This selection is from Fulghum’s book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten