This Christmas season, there has been so much good. As I stare at the beautiful plate of sugary goodness: peppermint bark, frosted cookies, candies sprinkled with red and green sugars, delivered by a longtime friend, I worry that in my own struggles to keep up with my daily tasks at hand, I may not truly take in all the sparkle that is around me. I am afraid that I might have trouble keeping up with the kindness. I fear that I will forget to count some of my blessings.
All of the little girls could jump rope. All of them, except me. Perhaps I would have been able, but I was afraid to try. Dressed in my Catholic school uniform of a red, white, and blue plaid jumper and crisp white Peter Pan collar shirt, I was content to hold the rope’s end, swinging it in rhythm as the other girls, whose outfits matched mine, lined up to jump Double Dutch in turn. I was content to spend my twenty minutes of recess admiring the fancy footwork and shiny Mary Janes of my classmates. I desperately wanted to be part of their game.
“Patty, don’t you want a turn?” From time to time, another girl might invite me to try. Though I may have secretly wished to jump, I neverlet go of my rope’s end. I think I was afraid of what might happen if I did.
I am pulled somewhere from both sides, into a lonely space where I can find nobody else, nobody like me, and into all of the others, so I, too, can be one of them. Each place may seem right at one time or another, but I wonder if either is where I am supposed to be.
His eyes are deep, dark chocolate. Looking into them, I know he sees through me as easily as it is a struggle for me to see inside of him. These eyes, decorated in eyelashes an inch long, can’t share the secrets. He can’t tell anyone. Not yet, anyway, for it’s not time.
How valuable those tiny moments are; the moments when you see a difference, and you know that there has been a shift. Perhaps not astounding, but the slightest step on the path. How amazing to brave winter’s icy blast to find one perfect brown egg, still a little warm, in the nest box.
My hens have been prolific egg layers through the summer and fall. We had dozens of fresh, strong-shelled farm-to-table eggs every week. As the hens began to lose feathers while molting, and as the season’s chill had settled in, I should have remembered from what I had read that during the wintertime, egg production will likely drop off. I was still surprised when it happened. My chickens, it seems, are having trouble keeping up. I had to buy a dozen eggs for the first time in many months.
I may not have appeared lonely, but I must have been. Now, there is loneliness in the fear, the fear of not being able to keep up with my son.
If we spend the whole night waiting for the morning, we wait all day for our chance to lie down and rest. The chickens need sunlight to lay eggs, just as I need his bright spirit to tell me that this is not the end, but to carry on through the nearly barren winter, gathering an egg or two for a day if I am lucky. Gather the lonely harvest in anticipation of spring’s bounty, because that promise of hope, of a peaceful afternoon, of a basket brimming with fresh eggs, is all we have. I will be sure to hold tightly to my end of the rope.
I don’t expect to gather half a dozen eggs anymore. Maybe, though, if I go out one last time to check the nest boxes at dusk, when the sky shines pink and gold, there will be just one more egg waiting for me as a reminder to count my every blessing.