Tonight is the longest night of the year, winter solstice and for many that means preparing for the christmas festivities. For me it means more the lengthening of days, the return of sunlight and the nearing of spring (how ever long it still may seem) and the start of the seasons of growth.
For many it is a period of madness, of frantic activity, of stress and of buying, buying, buying.....
For us it traditionally has become a season of dread, of dreariness and of worry, because this is the period that puts more strain on our economics than any other and this year is one of the least prosperous ones... Top that off with some extra expenses in the form of expected and unexpected bills, cover it with an icing of bad memories and a deep, inner sense of privation and you might understand why I am really developing a serious dislike of the december month, despite all the lights and "cheerfulness" of christmas.
And yet this time is also the time we were on the receiving end of some of the most wonderful gifts people have to offer; the gifts of understanding, of compassion, but above all the gift of friendship..
The first gift we got, was the gift of a new family member, because that is what Rex already has become in this short period since we got him.
Another gift we had the fortune to receive, was that of understanding and compassion. More people here started to realise and understand what our life looks like and what strain that places on us as a family and what toll that is taking from us as parents. It feels so heartwarming and above all encouraging for us to know and to feel that people (are beginning to) understand..... It breaks that paralysing feeling of isolation.
The third gift we were to receive this year was that of friendship, friends of old and new, far away and nearby.... We were blessed to welcome some friends from long ago, again and we very fortunate to deepen some contacts on a local level after summer and these have turned into friendships and about a week ago, we could count ourselves lucky to repeat that process once more. This resulted in an invitation to a 50th birthday celebration and a wonderful feast because of that. No fancy party, but a gathering of people, sharing food, drink, conversation, songs and laughter... Ohh how I had missed this!!
As a result of those developing understanding and those friendships we were offered gifts in a material sense. Some of those were complete surprises and some we thankfully and respectfully declined, since we were no longer in need at the moment.
One of those dear people would not have any talk about not being able to repay that. She just said that we gave ourselves.... which is indeed the only gift we have to give and which we give with all our hearts.
Because of this, the base of our christmastree will no longer be empty on christmasmorning, but, through others, we can give our kids a few little somethings in order to show them our appreciation for the things they do and the way they manage themselves and the situation....
That is another gift to me; the gift of immense pride in my kids, my wife, in me... In us!
It gives me strength and confidence that we will make it, no matter what.