The Moment Of Truth

If you hear music when she’s near you
And Christmas comes ev’ry day of the year
Then you must know why it’s the first clue
That the moment of truth is near

The Moment Of Truth, Tex Satterwhite, Frank Scott

Let’s stay home and play old records
Our future’s bright, the past is checkered
What do you say we lift a glass
Toast the ghost of another year past

New Year’s Song, Linford Detweiler, Karin Bergquist (Over The Rhine)

It’s Christmas morning, a time for considering the fortunes that fate has gifted us and to reflect upon the past that engendered them. And as I have for each of the past forty Christmas mornings, I realize that I am a very lucky man.

When I was a young boy, Christmas was a magical season. It began promptly on the morning after Thanksgiving after elves in moleskin trousers had decorated the streets and stores of my small town. Who knows what expletives the elves may have uttered in their haste, for they, like Santa, worked through the night while we children slept. The magic they created that night lasted until the close of  New Year’s Day when blustery winds swept it away leaving winter’s inevitable dirt and debris in its place. But while the magic was afoot, every face in town, regardless of family wealth or the lack thereof, was lit with expectations of a joyous and warm home and hearth.

When I first became the head of a household in a place far from my hometown, I  discovered that I had lost the Christmas magic at some point during the move. That is not to say that those Christmases weren’t pleasant, but the concept of “pleasant” is a distant second to that of “enchanted”. Then in my late twenties, I didn’t rue my personal loss because my young son’s eyes were alight with joy each Christmas season and that was enchantment enough for me. As I was then responsible for much of the Christmastime effort in my small family, it was up to me to see that others enjoyed the season. And they did. And that was good.

This state of affairs continued until Helen entered my life. She first came in springtime, so my initial inkling that she might be an undercover Christmas elf came when I noticed that she always looked at Christmas decorations of any variety whatever the time of year. If something sparkled and could be hung on a tree or placed in a vignette, she was intrigued by it. Therefore, our first Christmas together brought what would become a longstanding partnership into being – I did the heavy lifting in a ballet choreographed and directed by Helen. Helen being in charge was simply correct, an unconscious acknowledgement that decorating our home was the fulfillment of her inner vision – a vision fueled equally by her artistic training and her total concentration upon the joys of the season. As her vision took physical form, I was wrapped within it as if a present to be left under the tree with my name written on the tag. Every Christmas thereafter has been the same – a year long love affair with the possibilities another Christmas has to offer, culminating in an explosion of color and artistry when its occurrence looms.  But the sameness of process has never produced a static result: each year’s vision is sufficiently unlike the last to intrigue me in its own right and by its very difference from its predecessor, and the energy she expends to achieve it always amazes me and wraps me anew in colorful ribbons, papers, and bows.

Due to the infirmities of age, I no longer play any physical role in the yearly pageantry that transforms our home into a Christmas wonderland. But I remain involved because my observations and opinions are always sought by the resident Christmas elf. I am not a bystander. My attention and input are demanded. I am a witness, not an arbiter or judge. As such, I am privileged to experience, and play a small role in, the annual creative process as it unfolds, and to marvel at the transformation it inevitably works.

But Helen’s magic is no longer reserved for Christmastime. Over the long years that our partnership has endured, she has wrapped me in a state of love and caring that cocoons me throughout the year. While Christmas remains her specialty, her magic has blessed every day and every aspect of my life.

In this post-modern world where truth is no longer anchored in reason, fact, science, or anything else recognizable to me, I remain convinced that I had my moment of truth long ago – forty one years ago this coming January 1 as a matter of fact. For that is the anniversary of our marriage, the day that cemented our partnership. And whatever fate, in the future, holds in store for us or for society’s concepts of truth, my truth will always be fixed and anchored to Helen’s magical presence.  She is, without a doubt, my lodestar.

Merry Christmas, happy new year, and happy anniversary to my favorite Christmas elf of all time.  None of the others will ever measure up to you.


About Gavin Stevens

Humptulips County is the wholly fictional on-line residence of Stephen Ellis, a would-be writer, an avid fan of William Faulkner and his Yoknapatawpha County, and a retired lawyer.
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