I've told this story before, but this year it means something different to me. The neighbor in the story doesn't live next door anymore - we've got new neighbors. Neighbor got divorced and he and his family moved to different houses. And I am reminded (again) how things are always changing - sometimes falling down, sometimes being put right (and often - too often, for my comfort - not knowing which is which).
I used to get great delight from seeing my neighbor's holiday lawn ornaments fall over.
Mr. Neighbor had a little family of flat, white, wooden reindeer and a 3-D, 3 ft. tall plastic Santa. Each year he'd take the decorations out of storage and lean the reindeer against the house for a few days. They'd be behind a brick half-wall whose purpose (during the rest of the year) was blocking Neighbor's trash cans from view.
Santa would also be behind the half-wall, visible only from my driveway and one of the windows of my house. For whatever reason, Santa was always placed nose facing into the corner - and what with the hunch of his shoulders and the angle he was tilted he always looked to be taking a wiz.
Within a few days Mr. Neighbor would begin to assemble the family of reindeer. Each had a flat, wooden cross-piece that fitted into the the bottom of the flat reindeer making them able to stand. Almost immediately after Neighbor got all the reindeer pieced together and placed on somewhat flat ground - positioned near each other and Santa - we'd have a storm. A dashing, windy rumpus of a storm. Every year.
And at least one reindeer would bite the dust (or snow). I felt a little sad the first time I saw it happen, but Neighbor quickly got the reindeer upright again and all was well.
Wind and winter storms are normal around here in December, though - so the reindeer were in constant peril. Rudolph and/or a couple buddies fell over frequently. It got so that each time I would head out to the driveway I'd look over and take a body count. And it started to seem funny to me. Very funny! Every trip to the car meant laughing til my sides ached.
I like to think of myself as a semi-kind person, so I wondered what was the matter with me. Why did I find it so amusing that Neighbor struggled with resuscitating reindeer? The answer hit me surprisingly quickly (the way the wind hit the reindeer - though I didn't fall down) - it had more to do with Neighbor fixing the reindeer than it did with them falling over.
I had the aha moment one day after a wind storm - when Neighbor didn't come out and set the reindeer right. I didn't know if he was sick, gone for the day or what - but seeing the bodies made my heart sad. When he finally fixed them I started laughing again.
My laughter wasn't mean-spirited, it was more like JOY. I knew that Neighbor did the whole reindeer thing (putting them up and taking care of them) for his little son. I laughed because I knew how much he loved his little boy and that he'd keep standing those reindeer up.
And, having had the (metaphoric) wind knock my own (metaphoric) reindeer on their (metaphoric) asses way more than once, I was thrilled by the chance to witness Neighbor's perseverance - his willingness to stand those reindeer up again and again.
I laughed because it's beautiful (and JOYful) to watch any of us keep trying - keep standing things up even when we know life will probably knock them down again. Whether we do it for our kids, ourselves, for Life itself, for The Beloved - it's always for LOVE.
And that's something to smile, giggle, even guffaw about! (And besides, things falling over make good sight gags!!)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Pssst, If you've had the (metaphoric) wind knock you on your (metaphoric) ass recently -
or are feeling glum and bah humbugish this holiday season -
please come on over and read some of the heart-opening stories being shared in the Strength from Within blog round robin.
Some great writers (and me) share solace and encouragement for the holiday season (doesn't matter what holiday you do - or don't celebrate) - you're not alone!