“The secret to more is less”. It was a motto written right across the stairs that led to the downstairs room. It was smartly organised as an autonomous studio flat. And for that reason it was very often used as a guestroom. But the best part of it all was that it was the room with the fireplace, and had the wooden logs aptly stored right out the window.
The first winter there was the one they reminded, because it was their first one together.
But it was right there where they realised they wanted to spend all winters together.
For the majority of people, holidays – especially Christmas and New Year – means home. It means being surrounded by your loved ones, the people who know you best and who will be next to you no matter what. They are the ones who stay whatever the situation is and who remind you that you are stronger than you think and can survive anything. You did so far, and you will continue to do so.
There is no place you feel safer than being at home. Because here, nothing can touch you, nothing can hurt you or make you sad. You have a safety net of love that acts as a shield, helping you cope with whatever is causing havoc in your mind. And you can get lost simply staring at a burning fireplace, wrapped up in a fleece blanket on the couch.
When you have a birthday on Christmas day – like I do – you feel this season more deeply. It is your season, your time, your day. Because you have no other all year round. No one is entitled to ruin it for you and you shouldn’t let anyone do so. After all, people hurt you only as much as you allow them to.
When I tell people I have a Christmas-birthday. I get two types of reactions: one is – ‘oh how lovely to have a birthday on this special day, you’re really lucky’; and the other – ‘that sucks, you have everything crammed in one day and don’t get all the attention you deserve’. My view is somewhere in between. I’ve said it before, there are pros and cons to having a Christmas birthday. But when you get to share this very special day with people who really care for you and you’re overwhelmed with love and wishes, that’s all that matters.
A person feels happy when they feel safe and loved. Everything else will come at the right time.
Somewhere around the globe, where the snow had already spread its unblemished tapestry, a young boy was still waiting for Santa Claus. He hoped he would bring him a New Year that would be radically different from the one that was just days from becoming history. This one had simply not lived up to his expectations.
Frederick was a strong young man. He had learned to survive the hardships and no matter what life struck him with, he would rise stronger. Until now. This year had broken him. He was forced to deal with loss, with pain, with anguish, with unemployment, with being broke, with disappointment, with having his expectations built-up only to have them crushed, with break-ups, with heartache, and it just seemed to be getting dimmer. There was no light at the end of the tunnel anymore and that was what hurt him the most.
It was snowing outside. The temperature had fallen to below zero already and you could feel the cold nipping at your nose the minute you stepped out of the door. Frederick decided to stay indoors, with the fireplace lit. He was sitting on the small couch by the window with a hot cocoa in hand, staring at the snow spreading like a white fluffy carpet outside.
He could feel the melancholy gripping onto him. It was this time of the year when he felt more alone, when he pondered on what he wished his life was like, and realized what it was not. He wanted so much more of life itself – a partner, a family, wonderful moments to share and people to experience them with. It all meant nothing if he was simply stuck in a dead-end. He wrapped the red fleece blanket around his legs; the cold was creeping in as the sun set.
Frederick wanted to believe that this New Year would be different. That it would finally be the year when his life would improve, when he would manage to realise his dreams and achieve his ambitions. He wanted to be happy and at least look back and be content with the life he led.
That is what he wanted Santa Claus to bring. A new year that would have things go his way, or at least in the same direction he would like them to. He knew it was a difficult thing to ask, but nonetheless he believed. He had to believe in something after all.
He fell asleep there, wrapped in the blanket, with the fire glazing inside, and the snow silently falling outside.
When he woke up the next day, the fire had already extinguished itself and the sun was trying to peek out from behind the clouds. There was a snowman staring at him outside his window – complete with two thin sticks for arms and a carrot for a nose. He even had pebbles formed in the shape of a smile. Frederick smiled. Maybe it was the kids in the neighbourhood who had created Mr Frosty. Either way, it was a very welcome and very pleasant surprise.
But that was not all.
Right in front of the fireplace there was a little blue box. Frederick could swear that was not there before. And he was certain all the doors were locked so no-one could have gotten in without being heard. He got up and picked up the box. It was feather-light. He opened it slowly – who knows what could jump out.
In the centre of the velvet interior was a white pearl. And at the back of the box cover there was writing. “A pearl of wisdom because every year that passes, no matter the pain, the heartache and the suffering, will always make you wiser, more mature and more knowledgeable. Life will hand you many such pearls, it is up to you what you will decide to do with them. Never give up.”
It was not signed.
Frederick’s pulse raced. Could this be the sign he was longing for? The optimism that he needed for a favourable new year?
To him it was. Because sometimes, all it takes is the smallest of things to remind you that what matters most cannot be seen.