The other day while rummaging through boxes of Christmas decorations, I happened upon a bag of holiday cards received over the years from friends and family. There is something about cards and notes we receive during the holiday season that makes them almost sacred and not to be thrown away.
Upon opening one of the cards, I saw written in very neat calligraphy the words, “Be Merry and Bright.” The penmanship quickly identified the writer as my sister-in-law. The written message made me pause and think about our lives since arriving here, Downeast. It was a nice moment.
Of course those words are from that classic holiday song sung by many, but most remembered as belonging to Bing Crosby, first in the film Holiday Inn and then later in another film titled for the song “White Christmas.” Written by Irving Berlin in the early ‘40s, the song quickly garnered international acclaim. Today, it is one of the most popular songs played during the holiday season.
While focusing my attention on the words written there at the bottom of this card, my mind wandered as I started to reflect on our time here, especially the past couple of Christmases. Much has happened since then, and celebrating the holidays is an opportunity for all of us to focus on the good, instead of the bad that sometimes invades our own little piece of the world.
We have much to be happy about this holiday season. My wife and I are now into year three of a full time life being lived here in Maine. We have our health and we have an ever-growing number of family and friends sharing in our life as it happens. Most of these experiences and memories have been good ones, and the people we have met and the way they live life here transcends any doubts we might have had prior to making the move from Pennsylvania.
In this particular moment of reflection it seemed as though instead of the card in my hand, I imagined I was holding a snow globe. I watched the shaken goodness inside swirl about, and I thought of this place, Washington County. We are like that snow globe, but instead of being filled with snow, it is filled with people and organizations that have one thing on their minds: making good things happen for others and doing it everyday.
This list is a long one, and they came floating into my memory like a flurry of snowflakes, each different and perfect. I thought of the hospice volunteers always offering a smile or a hug during difficult times; the hospital workers pulling the shifts no one wants; the organizers of town functions, such as parades, holiday events and other activities, all for the children; food banks feeding the hungry and clothing drives to keep them warm; state and town representatives always available to answer questions; community suppers for those needing support; municipal workers keeping the town open for business and the volunteer firemen that keep it safe; the fishermen braving the elements to put food on the table and those we lost doing what it is they loved doing; the parents, spouses and children that love unconditionally; the teachers that prepare the future, day in and day out; and, of course, plenty of hand waves, smiles, and an endless bounty of “hellos” and greetings of good will from total strangers.
And let us not forget the natural wonders that perfectly blanket this place, especially during the holiday season. The cold dark mornings brightened by the boats as they head out for the day chasing sea smoke; candles lit on window sills and wreaths placed on doors; deer with ears erect on the front lawn; white caps curling in the cove as the tide turns over; islands shrouded in fog as the light from the lighthouse makes its rounds and, the gulls defying gravity just one more time. It is all good, and it’s all here.
So, as I sit here this morning, in the warmth of a house being filled every day with new memories, writing messages inside greeting cards, I reflect on all those moments made since coming here and how each of them made this day possible. I cannot help but think of those four words written one Christmas long ago, placed inside a card for me to find, and to be reminded of how far we have come and how bright the journey has been.
With deep respect for the writer of this wonderful song, I cannot help but take the liberty of making a minor amendment to it by placing pen to paper during this holiday season, and writing to everyone we have had the pleasure to meet since arriving here. It would go something like this: I’m dreaming of a Downeast Christmas / With every Christmas card I write / May your days be merry and bright. And may all your Christmases be a reflection of all that is good here, and in your life.