I've known my fair share of holidays with tepid cheer, and spent several alone with only the quick phone calls of family (when long distance actually mattered on the bill) to interrupt the evening.
So every season I listen again to the music that stirred me so and kept me moving through what were dark waters.
I miss, sometimes, those simpler days when I had very little, indeed, around me. A cat, a tiny apartment, and spartan treasures held to year after year. That music rang when a knock came to the door and a tree stood there, because it was necessary to have one for the gift boxes to be placed under it. Two matching boxes in gold foil paper.
The candles flickered as lights were strung in a companionable silence. Not the first tree he'd bought, no. But I liked to think it meant near as much to him as it did me. I told myself similar things for years about him. "Open it - open one, at least..." he taunted. They were all I had under it, that lovely tree. I hesitated but then gave in, my childish desire overwhelming my adult sense of frugality. He sat and watched.
Crystal - a goblet of Irish extraction - to hold the wine of life. A set, he noted, his chin lifted to the other golden box.
I asked him to have the band play that song on one of the last times we knew each other. Unfamiliar with it, the clouds rolled across his eyes as my mouth twisted, knowing it was all over, all over, but holding to it tightly to wring every moment from it.
It played again, years later, loss upon loss so that I walked in a baffled stupor. The crystal fell from drunk hands and shattered on the floor, a kind of requiem and a final goodbye to all that.
Its mate remains in the cabinet yet, unfilled for years, now, a relic...when I was quite mad I thought of it that way - of burying it somewhere with the whole tale wrapped around it like a shroud. So that perhaps one day someone would know.
But I think, now, that sometimes we are given these stories to keep us alive. To make us stronger. So that we can, later, say, "And then I know I can bear anything."
Our own Troubles are coming. A part of me is glad that I need not worry about him, that perhaps he can offer - from his vantage - graces when needed.