it's the day before Christmas. I am used to Christmases of great heat, sweltering in the summer warmth. Or some Christmases of snow, in Germany and here is my new home. This year, the weather seems ambivalent, it is mild and sunny today. So Christmas has no specified weather any more.
it is my birthday today, something also lacking specifics, except of course the simple one of age. 52, i will tell you unashamedly, and with some shock. I don't feel that old, whatever feeling a certain age should mean. Though my face is creased where it used to be smooth, and my hands wear more skin than they know what to do with, and arthritis in my thumbs sometimes jolts me with pain, and the little hair i have is no longer truly brown ( or red or yellow - I used to dye my hair a lot!). I am slower, tireder. But still, a part of me is fixed at some point that is timeless....
my mother always said I was the best Christmas present she ever received. In fact, I was meant to be a sagittarian, not capricorn, but in a habit I carry to this day, i was late. So late, the doctors swore I would have to be induced, but after Christmas, and then i decided to be born. My mother had the ambulance make a detour en route to the inner city hospital where I was born: she wanted to see the magnificent Christmas tree, rising high amongst the city buildings of Sydney, sparkling with tinsel and lights, in Martin Place. Like me, my mother was quite a romantic, and Christmas brings that out.
My first Christmas gift was from Santa, me not yet a day old, a blue teddy bear, whom i loved until an adult, when he was lost somehow whilst i travelled overseas. He was my protector, I even wrote a poem about him as a child. I was filled with great fear at night, and somehow his presence in my arms really comforted me. The great Kuntazangpo, the primordial wisdom Buddha, is blue, and sometimes I think, if a child, an infant were to call forth from her newborn heart that protector, perhaps a blue teddy bear would be the form. My name is an abbreviation of that great wisdom deity, so I am reminded of his presence every day. With gratitude.
When I was a day or so old, my mother heard a baby screaming in the nursery. In those days babies were kept together in a room, and brought to the mothers at feeding time. Perhaps that still happens, i really don't know. There was some great event happening in the hospital, and all the nurses were off the floor - a multiple birth or something. Anyway, no-one responded. my mother could not bear the sound, she said she knew it was her very own child. She slid from bed in her thin nightgown and ran down the hall. I had wedged my head between the rungs of the cot, and was screaming in pain and fear. She rescued and comforted me, as she always had and always will. This is the sharp penetrating immutable love of a parent for a child.
In Buddhism we are encouraged to reflect on that love, and to consider that in the endless shifting waves of time and space, every being has at some time been our parent. And therefore this love is the foundation of every connection between each and every one of us. But we forget, just as in later years, I forgot this burning love of my mother and sometimes spat anger at her from a twisted mouth. But ultimately the love is not affected, it is constant. And that is the most wonderful gift to be reminded of, that we can always offer each other - birthdays, Christmas, any and every time.
As a child I celebrated my birthday on August 16, my great-grandmother's birthday. My mother thought it unfair that my special day was always buried beneath the Christmas gifts. At some point - perhaps 13 - I shed that August date. Now I barely celebrate at all. The sun rises and sets as it does every day.
So here we are, Lucky and me, two old bag ladies who have found each other in the Arizona wilderness, each a little eccentric, each a little grey. And we wish you a wonderful Christmas, vibrant with friendship and love and the certainty that none of us is alone; that wherever we are, however we look, how many nights have passed since we were born, we are linked together in a luminous sphere of immeasurable compassion and loving kindness. That is truly something to celebrate together!