I received a small tub of playdough a week ago from our Admissions office. It was part of a small gift bag of candy and a note saying thank you for all my work with them this semester. I LOVE play dough! Like no joke! So of course, I tore the bag apart in my hurry and gave the candy to the student who happened to be with me and went for the playdough. Thankfully my meeting with the student was over so I could go play with my new toy. I kneaded the playdough and rolled it around and made all kinds of things. I was preoccupied for a good 20 minutes. Thankfully it was the last day of finals week and most students were gone so I was left to my own devices and I was content to do just that. Why do I tell you this? My life has been like playdough this year with universe, fate, demons, and angels alike rolling and shaping me as I’ve gone along. I’ve done my best to bounce back from all of these moldings and pummels, some good, some not so much.
I made a major life change and state move in July this year. I made it with my back against the wall, and I was filled with trepidation all along. From the very day I said yes to the job offer and proceeded to negotiate their offerings, I felt like a sell-out for giving up on my business and returning to my third love: Student Affairs. I had friends and sistas telling me that I wasn’t giving up, that I was merely pausing and putting a hold on things while I chose self-care and stability. The business had been challenging and I had worked non-stop to get it off the ground and keep it afloat. I was in a lot of debt and the business wasn’t experiencing the growth that I had anticipated. Making the choice to shut down operations was so excruciating. Yet when I was invited to the on-campus interview and I saw that the campus sat on the lake, I knew it was mostly a done deal even though in my heart of hearts I was still mourning my business and the need to take off my chef coat, even if only for a little while.
I have managed to build a life and home for myself here in Central New York and I have even begun holding pop-ups which have been well-received. I have made a few solid friends and even found a special someone. This will be the first Christmas and New Year’s in 4 years I will not be alone romantically. It makes me giddy, but I am trying to pace myself so I don’t overwhelm her. Even though I technically don’t celebrate religiously any longer, I still maintain the idea that it is a time for gathering and sharing what we have with others. I am thankful that even though I will not be in Ohio with blood family, I have found someone to begin building my own family with.
The very spirit of Christmas considering the Christian narrative, has come to mean less to me over the past several years since I’ve not had a faith community to worship with. At first I found it hard to let go of Advent so I would send off for non-denominational pamphlets with Advent reflections after failing to identify with the Catholic ones. Eventually I stopped doing that too. The only one thing that has mostly remained constant these few years is Midnight Mass. No matter where I am, I try to make my way to mass. Yes, I am that catholic who takes up pew space once a year! Somehow something about the festivities of that night still speak to me. I stopped receiving communion years ago so it’s not about that. I am not even sure I still believe in the miracle birth, but something happens to me at Midnight Mass that I can’t explain. It’s the most beautiful part of the tradition as far as I’m concerned. Sign me up for some “Nine Lessons and Carols” any day! I think perhaps I go because it’s the one thing that I can safely hold on to from my life as a catholic. Sometimes I miss the ceremony of it all but when I think of the system that really runs it all, I know I probably can’t ever go back to business as usual.
Back home in Ghana, we spent the whole week in church, pretty much. It started with the last Sunday of Advent, then Christmas Eve, then Christmas Day. On Boxing Day we had the church picnic and then visited with the sick and shut-in who couldn’t make it. On 31st night we’d be back again for Vigil Mass which let out way past our bedtimes. We’d return New Year’s Day for the blessing mass. In a way, we bade goodbye to the old, and ushered in the New Year with church as the foundation for it all. After Christmas Day Mass, my sister and I would prepare our meal and then open presents.
Christmas presents were usually wrapped up items of clothing or other survival necessities which had been sent by mom through DHL perhaps a week or two earlier. We went through the package(s) and knew exactly what we got, but there was joy in having presents under the tree even if you knew exactly what was in them. The joy of opening the “presents” was second only to the joy of knowing that after weeks of staring at whatever the item was, we could finally wear/consume it. We also made little care packages for all our “needy” friends. That is a story for another day. Grandmother always taught us that no matter how little we had, we always had more than others so we divvied up whatever Smarties, Kit Kat and Twix we had received, and made packages to be delivered later. Sometimes we’d wrap up fabric that Daddy had dropped off for our Epiphany Sunday attire. We’d open presents and exclaim in various notes at all the items that were piling up. If we had enough wrapping paper, my sister and I wrapped everything individually so it was plentiful under the tree, like individual packages of socks culled from the 6-pack mom had sent.
This year, I was seized by the spirit of Christmas early and I have been preparing for it for a while. I have only had a live tree once in my life and I remember the joy of having something living inside my house. I was determined to do it again this year so I went in search of one. This time I had to cut it down myself so I did some libations, asked for forgiveness and began sawing. It was surreal to take life from another, and all the way through I was apologizing and promising to take care of her when I got her home. So far, I have spent a few minutes each night, before bed, laying under her branches and talking to her. It may sound odd to folks but I believe the least I can do is honor her sacrifice to come brighten my corner. I searched for a whole month for a tree topper and lo and behold, my bff came through with a wonderful angel made in Haiti. Enjoy her!
As a result of my childhood upbringing I shy away from frivolous gift-giving. I give practical things; I consider myself winning the lottery if someone buys me that one thing that I have been needing but just can’t stretch my paycheck thin enough to cover it. I have matured and with it, my sense of style so I try to tell people not to get me any personal effects. Because I have always been a practical gift-giver and receiver, I still find joy in wrapping up the coat I bought on Black Friday to open it on Christmas morning. Although I’ve had my tree for a month, the bottom is still devoid of gifts, because I am not going home to see family. My love and I have decided to celebrate it together in a low-key manner. I told her I have to have at least one thing under the tree to open and it can be something I need. Pressure! Since we’ve only known each other for about two months this is the real test. 🙂
The song, “So this is Christmas” keeps making its rounds on my playlist and every time it comes on, I really pause and think: “what have [I ] done? Another year over, a new one just begun.” I begun this year joining the #52essays challenge and even though I didn’t do it justice, it gave me something to strive for. I begun this year with a lot of disappointment and upset over the business struggles and I end with a new clientele that has welcomed me. I am nowhere near where I started out this year and for the most part it’s been needed and welcomed changes.
I’ll tell you this much, this is what I have done: managed to keep my playdough from crumbling and falling apart completely.
Afihyia Pa o! Afihyia Pa! Aifi sisei d3m na ye hyia mo biom!
I wish you and yours a blessed holiday season whatever you celebrate or eschew.