The last plate
Christmas was my favorite time of year. Hands down. Birthdays were great, but nothing beat that cold-to-the-bone, off-to-visit-relatives, hot-chocolate-and-marshmallow, diving-into-stockings feeling that Christmas always delivered.
Growing up on the prairies, the season started off with the 'finding of the tree'. Snowmobiles, axes, mittens, toques pulled to the top of your nose. Snow blasting your face as you searched for that perfect size, that perfect shape. Dragging it home. Sticking it in a bucket filled with rocks and water. Nothing fancy. But that smell. I will always remember that smell.
Then, as family moved away, me included, Christmas became more of a rush-to-the-post-office ordeal. Never did I shop ahead of time. For years I learned to thrive on the "will it get there in time?" angst of the holidays.
As time passed, we once again found ourselves living near to one another. Children were born. Turkeys were stuffed and cooked and the smell of the lot-picked tree overtook the room.
We would gather 'round our dining room table, set with the good seen-once-a-year china, and devour our Christmas meal. After, that is, we watched the kids tear into their gifts. Always too many. Not their fault - just ours.
Then, as happens in life, tragedy struck and suddenly my brother was gone at way-too-young an age.
But, as happens every year, despite tragedy or heartbreak or loneliness, Christmas came around again. Presents were bought, the tree looked lovely, the turkey smelled amazing.
An hour before the family was to arrive I started to set the table.
With a creak, I opened the dish cupboard door.
I took seven of the once-a-year china plates from their resting place on the bottom shelf. Then I stood in the middle of the room, staring at that bottom shelf, unable to stop the tears. Only one plate remained. This would be the first family dinner without Wayne.
The tears kept flowing as the pattern repeated itself. From that place setting of eight, one of everything was left behind. One plate, one bowl, one side plate, one coffee cup.
It broke my heart closing the door on those dishes left behind.
For many years after, the setting of the Christmas table was something I dreaded as I knew that last plate would once again bring tears.
Life is definitely a gift, and it's funny the things that remind you not to take anything for granted. So live fully. Love often and don't be afraid of the dark.