The Christmas Letter

My desk is a disaster area. 

Now for those of you who intimately know me, this is not exactly a news event. My ability to stay organized in my head, depends on where I “see things” on my desk (or any other flat area in our home, for that matter!) 

Don’t get the Princess started on this endearing habit of mine. She’s threatened to divorce me many times over. 

And we are not even married.

I don’t know how my teaching assistants put up with me all those years, but they did and here I am today: retired with a desktop that you can barely see.

So, I woke up at 5 this morning and told myself that I wanted a small Xmas tree in the corner of my room, but I wasn’t going to put it up until I cleaned off my desk top.

Being the person that I am, though, I couldn’t start with the offending piece of furniture that needed organizing the most.

No. 

I needed to start way to hell over at the other end of the room with my bookshelf. A bookshelf, mind you, that has more stuff on it and in it than books.

An hour into the dusting and organizing, I came across a folded up letter that was dated December 13, 2007. A Christmas letter addressed to my Mom, written by me, that my sister-in-law must have found in my mother’s belongings when she died and gave to me with some other mementos that I had stored away in 2018.

I should be ashamed to say this, but I’m thinking it’s probably been 2 years since I’ve dusted this particular piece of furniture. My Mother is in heaven chuckling right now because she, of all people, knew how I loathed dusting. 

I could never, for the life of me, understand how as a youngster it was one of MYresponsibilities to do and not one of my BROTHER’S responsibilities. I would have gladly taken out the garbage once a week rather than had the job of dusting the furniture.

Guess my Mother never quite grasped the concept of “gender neutral jobs” in the 60’s.

But I digress.

In the letter I told my mother, “You’ve brought me much laughter, much joy and much love. You’ve taught me to be a woman of honesty and integrity; my morals and values of life are your morals and values. You’ve taught me to be loving and kind and accepting; and above all else you’ve taught me the value of friendship and how important family and friends are in our life.

I went on to write that “it is not the money that we’ve made or how many degrees we have that will define our self worth, but how much we’ve loved and how much we are loved that will matter most when it is time for us to leave.”

My letter ended telling my Mom that she “was so very rich in friends and love of family and [more importantly] in the knowledge of what is truly important in life.”

I pray that with the coming New Year that I take the words that I said to my Mother and use them (to heal) in my own life.

I, like many in the country and world, have had a challenging four years since our last Presidential election. 

And I’m tired.

Tired of the vitriol. Tired of the hatred. Tired of the threats.

We need to heal.  (I need to heal.)

And what’s more important is that we need to talk to each other and be heard. Heard not as black people, or gay people, or Republicans or Democrats. 

But simply as people; as caring, loving people.

My tree finally got put up. Unfortunately, my desk is still a mess. 

But it’s ok, because it was important for me today to share my mother’s letter, to share my mother’s wisdom.

I sincerely wish for you a safe, joyful holiday season and a happy, healthy New Year and I’ll see you in 2021, looking at life from my shoes.

Christmas Gratitude

Years ago, I decided that unless I wanted to be spending every Christmas holiday alone, I’d better make some new Xmas traditions for myself or I was going be awfully lonely on one of my all-time favorite holidays of the year.

I was in my fifth year to sunny Northern Ca. from the cold, wintry, snow-entombed Adirondack mountains of upstate NY, and what little family I did have in Northern Ca., left for the sunnier, warmer climates of Southern Ca. and left me wondering “what the hell I was doing alone in this land of Birkenstocks, tie-dye t-shirts, tofu and crazy freeways?”

I didn’t have the money, or vacation time, to truck all the way down to southern Ca the first year my brother and his family left; so I stayed in my tiny studio, bought my own tree, strung popcorn and cranberries and with little money (but a load of creativity!), decorated my abode as best I could and did a pretty decent job that first year, if I do say so myself.

Being the “people person” that I am, though, I decided that I needed more of a “human connection” for my second year in my studio and so began my journey to acquire a local family and start some memory-making new holiday traditions.

After pricking and totally numbing my fingers that first year stringing my popcorn and cranberries, I decided that maybe my “new friends” would have fun in “assisting me” with said new tradition, and thus started my road to new and solicitous holiday traditions.

What I never truly understood then, but totally get now, though, was that these personal, Christmas traditions that I started years ago to serve my altruistic needs for family and love in my life, ended up benevolently serving a whole group of others, in their needs for intimacy and community, as well.

The food, the decorating, the laughter, the games….all activities and undertakings that satiated this hunger that I had for human connection and validation…all activities and traditions that satiated their hunger for connection and validation, too…

Everywhere I turned, I was being emotionally bombarded – from the Christmas songs relentlessly playing, to the Hallmark card advertisements – all reasons why I should be having a “holly, jolly Christmas,” and yet deep inside of me there was this “Christmas hole”, of sorts; and somehow I, Lucie Benedetti, was on the outside of what everyone else was enjoying; and somehow I needed to become an insider and be part of what Hallmark and all these Christmas songs were promoting.

I needed my “Christmas Story”.

I needed my set of traditions.

I needed “the holly and the jolly” that supposedly everyone else out there was having.

And I needed it, that year.

And I found it – with a group of individuals that (unbeknownst to me, at the time) were looking for their “Hallmark Christmas”, too.

Over the years, a lot of friends have come and gone, a lot of popcorn and cranberries strung, a lot of Christmas tables meticulously designed and set, a lot decorations bought and put up; a lot of Italian dishes lovingly prepared and eaten and a lot of love and good memories creatively fostered.

And some of us have gotten grayer, fatter, and somewhat wiser, and to those of us who have taken this path together – to those friends who have left me willingly (or unwillingly), and to those who remain in my life and in my heart (both near and far), I say, “Thank you. Thank you for gifting me with your friendship of unconditional love and loyalty and kindness”.

“But most of all – thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for making my Christmases the ‘holliest, jolliest, merriest’ of Christmases ever.”

May all of my friends, both new and old, be blessed with a year of good health, much love and a whole lot of unbridled, child-like laughter.

And I’ll catch ya next go-round, looking at life from my shoes.

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