The arrival of the holidays this year blew in with the fierceness of an Atlantic storm. I didn’t see it creep up in the midst of OT and PT appointments, work and the planning of a brand new kitchen. Suddenly, it was right in front of me and I was thrust into the task of gift shopping, food shopping, cleaning and organizing. Invites to parties popped up, writing deadlines glowed like the lights on our tree and a tsunami of frenzy flowed through the city. It’s a holiday stress that seems inconsequential but it’s enough to light up your joints like the flaming holiday bulbs, and invite Scrooge to spoil the festivities.
My jumbled energy seemed to block out my usual cheer of the season. One night, on a way to a concert, I heard the first chiming notes of a song I loved from my childhood, and my agitated state was replaced by an unexpected serenity. Later that evening, I lounged in our living room, watching our tree glimmering in the window, filling the room with a warm sparkle of colors. Outside the chill air was infused with the scent of gingerbread, cinnamon, and the sharp tang of cranberries. A gentle heat radiated from the oven, weakening the wrath of my sore joints, snuffing out their inflammation in the exquisite aroma of homemade cookies and egg nog. The rosy skirt encircling the base of the tree, stirred the memories of childhood: the anticipation of Christmas morning, the glossy presents clinging mutely to their secrets. A new doll? A game? A music player? The distant memory of the harmonious sounds of carols flowing from the radio as my brother and I sat amidst the remains of wrapping paper, my parents lingering over coffee. It was a precious time, a magical moment that I could summon at any time, even in the midst of holiday chaos.
Those magical moments seem to dissipate in adulthood, but I still can still find the child within myself crafting a mental list to Santa. What do I want for Christmas? I want to wake in the morning and find our crimson stockings filled with promise; I want everyone to have a little cheer over the holidays; I want to find delight in the little things; I want arthritis to take an extended vacation, leaving us to curl up in a warm place with the people we love, cradled by the joy of the holiday season. I put my childhood faith in the delicate hope that I can add always add one more item on my wish list: a cure for all sufferers of arthritis. It probably won’t happen this year, but I like to imagine it’s waiting to be discovered amid the candy cane forests of promising goals. Besides, you never know what gifts can be found simply by believing in a little bit of magic.
Wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday season in whatever you choose to celebrate at this time of the year – even it if it’s just the joy of being alive.
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.