This is one of my visions for an ideal Christmas. It’s a short, happy confection, a dream apart from these dire times. I hope you take some time to imagine your ideal Christmas, because what is imagined is also real, in its own way.
It’s Christmas Eve. You and your love bundle up in warm clothes, boots, gloves, scarf, earmuffs. You open the door to snow that is perfectly fluffy, soft and unstained. In front of you is a sleigh with two horses in harness. Their breath steams softly in the cold air. In the sleigh you find carrots and feed them to the horses, who lip them gently from your palms and then lift their noses to yours. A dog lies across the front bench of the sleigh, wagging his tail at you, only moving when you get in. The seat is warm from his body, as is the lap blanket he was lying on. He sits at your feet, you take the reins, and the horses walk, then trot. They know where they’re going, and soon you’re skimming across the fields, the stars low overhead, the only sounds made by the bells on the horses’ harness.
A glorious half hour later, you see a lodge with light spilling out large windows. The horses trot right up to a nearby barn and the barn door opens; two people come out to disconnect the sleigh, unbuckling the harnesses and calling the horses by name. The dog jumps down into the snow and so do you and your love. You kiss the horses’ noses and thank them and the people taking them into the barn to feed and spoil them. It’s snowing, big soft flakes coming down, and you play with the dog and your love, throwing snowballs and laughing. Then it’s up the stairs to the covered front porch, stamping your feet and brushing off your coats.
Inside, you find all your best friends in the world. They’re sitting in chairs arranged in small groups, drinking and eating and talking; the ones nearest you get up for hugs and greetings. A buffet table lines one wall: brie and pears, turkey and stuffing, salads and sweet potatoes, and a slew of desserts. There’s good wine and good gin, hot chocolate and tea. A huge fire burns in a fireplace, and the place is decorated with white string lights, fresh pine garland, and red ribbons.
And so you spend the evening with your best friends, your most beloved. You talk and you laugh. You play stupid board games and that one game where you sit in a circle and every writes a sentence on a piece of paper, and then passes it to the person next to them, who draws the sentence, and then folds over the paper so the next person only sees the drawing and has to write a sentence describing it. At some point someone notices the piano in the corner and offers to play carols, and several of you stand up and sing songs you learned in childhood, songs created to celebrate a birth, songs you believe are beautiful no matter what else you believe.
The evening winds down, some people taking their leave with hugs and smiles, going upstairs to warm rooms waiting for them. Small groups form, quieter now, talking and looking at the fire, and the conversation stretches out, relaxed and warm. You watch the firelight playing on the faces of these people you love, smart and funny people with their deep hearts, and you know how lucky you are. And when the time comes that you can no longer keep your eyes open, you and your love walk up the stairs, too, hand in hand, to your own room with its big window looking out over the starlit hills.