There’s a sweet melancholy that comes after Christmas. Glad it’s over, sad it’s over. Christmas evening leaves me standing in a hallway – a door at my back, a door at my front. Both doors are slightly ajar; the one behind me still claiming me even though very soon it will close and push me across the corridor through the door to the front of me. To the newest of years. It is a moment of both rejoicing and regret to walk through that brand new door.
Sometimes in books when something really dramatic happens you might read that the character’s heart sank. I’ve often wondered if that is possible and what it feels like. Well, it is possible and it feels weird, unsettling, like your heart has fallen out of its place in your chest and is plummeting like a pinball through your lower organs.
My heart sank on Christmas Day when my husband refused to go to my parents place for dinner. I understand why he opted out – it has been a really tough year for him, they are notoriously difficult to please; but it put me in a position I didn’t feel like being in on Christmas day.
So there were my son and I driving south, knowing we were getting further and further out of the city as the bushland began to touch the road and we saw the houses change in style from Victorian to Federation to Californian bungalow to Prefab 1960s. As we passed the house with the flock of stone flamingos on the lawn and the sky blue shutters we knew we were almost there.
Nervously, we pressed the doorbell, calling out: Merry Christmas with as much vigour as we could muster. My sinking heart was lodged somewhere between my liver and my spleen, still beating, but still sinking.
But sometimes people surprise you – even the ones whom you think incapable of surprising acts. My parents were fine about my husband being a no-show. They didn’t make a fuss about it at all. It was such a relief I felt my heart begin its ascent to its usual little chesty nook.
We had a quiet Christmas dinner, but a nice Christmas dinner. However, the thing I noticed, the thing that killed me, was how sad my parents were, as if they knew what they had done but didn’t know how to fix it.
I hate when people are sad. It’s the thing that upsets me the most. Even when people have hurt me and angered me, I still hate to see them sad.
My parents may have thought they couldn’t fix the situation but I decided I could. I would. So I forgave them. For all the nastiness and judgement and backstabbing. Usually it’s hard to forgive in one fell swoop but I think the little journey my sinking heart took loosened up a bit of the malaise that rents out space in my stomach and suddenly all those thoughts that plague you after you have pressed the process button on the Forgiveness App in your brain such as –
- but what about when he….
- But he told me that I was a ……
- But she said….
- But he said…..
- They had no right to…..
Does it matter what was said in the past? The sadness showed me it wasn’t meant; at least not any longer.
Driving back to the city we exclaimed at the colours of the sunset as we crossed the river. And then the birds rose up and over the bridge –shorebirds, plovers, sandpipers, stints – their long delicate beaks catching the orange and pink light and casting it over the road as if they were wielding magic wands.
They flew in an arc, untethered as angels, their exultation everlasting, then disappeared into the fading light. Just as my plaguing thoughts had.
The sunset pulled us home, carefree, effortless; pushing those things that lurk under stones out into the air. And suddenly it became less scary to walk through that brand new door.