Jim stopped in the doorway, wishing he had declined the invitation to go to his friend’s writing group’s Christmas party tomorrow. Even though it had been five years since his mom passed away, he still couldn’t bring himself to go into the writing room that they once shared.
Jim’s mom was a lover of stories and she would scribble her story ideas on little pieces of paper that ended up all over the house. Jim was forever chiding her to keep them all in one place. But she argued that she thought better that way. Stories were everywhere, she said. So why shouldn’t her notes be? One of her favorite things to do was to pick up scribbles from different rooms and magically weave them together to form a beautiful story.
Despite her years of dreaming and scribbling, she never did write a book. When her dementia worsened and she found those scraps of paper, she started putting them into her mouth. Jim had to gather up all of her bits of writing and store them into a large Christmas popcorn tin.
He wandered over to a shelf in the room and spotted the tin that held his mother’s precious thoughts and dreams. He closed his eyes remembering the morning that he took her to the nursing home.
So I’ll be back before Christmas then, right Jimmy?
Yes, mom. This is just a quick visit so they can help you work out that pain in your leg.
I want to come right back home so I can finish that Christmas story about the shaggy donkey, okay?
You’ll be home to finish it, Mom. I promise.
But she never did finish it. Because she never came home.
Overwhelmed by a fresh wave of grief, Jim turned to leave the room when he saw the binder on the bottom shelf.
He hugged the dusty binder, tears finding their way down his cheeks. It had been so very long since he looked at what was inside.
Like an archeologist carefully unwrapping a buried piece of treasured history, Jim turned the first page with great care. In this book were his poems. The only writing he ever truly felt called to do. Well, at least before his mom died and he felt drained of all emotion and of all words.
Page after page he turned. He closed the binder and made the decision. He would go to the Christmas writing party.
The next night at the party, Jim listened as writers shared their stories and poems with the group. Seeing his binder on the table, someone asked him if he was ready to read.
“I don’t know if I can. This really is a bad time of year for me.”
His mom hadn’t been at the nursing home more than a few weeks when he started getting the calls.
Your mom’s just not eating.
She’s refusing her medications.
Jim shook himself out from under the heavy weight of the memories and flipped to a dog-eared poem that had been one of his mom’s favorites. He read it. For her.
When he finally looked up from his poem he noticed people wiping their eyes, nodding and smiling at him.
“That was beautiful.”
“You don’t know how much I needed to hear that.”
And the supportive comments just kept coming.
Jim’s voice was full of emotion, “You know, when I walked in here tonight I saw myself as old and dusty as this here binder that’s been sitting on my shelf for years. I didn’t think I had anything left in me after my mom died, certainly not anything that I could give to anyone. I never thought that I’d get such a great gift tonight.” Jim brushed his sleeve across his eyes.
“A gift? What was that?” someone asked.
“You gave me the gift of confidence in my work, something I haven’t felt in years. I have needed to write for so long now but just couldn’t after mom died. I can’t think of a better way to remember her than to start writing poetry again. But first, I think I need to finish something for her.” Jim smiled as he remembered a certain shaggy donkey that had been waiting for his story for far too long.
The gifts of Christmas are all around us. Sometimes we just need to shake the dust off and find that the most beautiful gifts might be within us.