Ten Christmases ago, our family arrived in Austin to begin our new life as farmers. Like so many best laid plans, this one took an unexpected detour. Instead of moving to the 40-acre farm we had planned to buy in Cedar Creek, we were renting a house in Cedar Park. Instead of roaming fields filled with livestock, we were walking down sidewalks with our dog on a leash.
The Christmas Spirit was hard to find that year. We had left so much behind in Atlanta – home, friends, jobs – for a dream that now felt like a cruel joke. Our heads wrestled with a Plan B while our hearts kept wandering back to Georgia. Like the unopened boxes stacked around us, our lives had been put on lay-away.
Or so it felt.
Such a life-altering lurch doesn’t inspire charity or celebration, much less a reason to rejoice. Yet there we were Xmas Eve, gathered in this empty livingroom, decorating a bare branch Erin had broken off the tiny oak tree in the tiny front yard.
Our children, ages 3 and 4, had no doubt Santa was coming. And sure enough he did come. But the gifts we remember today were the unbought kind – the kindness of strangers; encouragement and support from family and friends; gratitude that we had arrived safely after two cross-country trips in U-hauls and trailers.
Like the bare branch that was transformed into a Xmas tree, we fashioned a new life in Austin, one step at a time. I soon found a job working on an organic farm just down the road. Erin was rediscovering the Austin she had loved and left behind in the 80s. Together we did what growers naturally do – tore up the —– in the back yard and planted a garden.
This year our lives lurched once again. We found ourselves in a slump and as Dr. Suess so well explains it: “Un-slumping yourself is not easily done…You’ll come to streets unmarked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they are darked.”
The unslumping began with you. With phone calls and letters and emails and messages and visits. With words that had gotten covered in dust and sweat.
The light in the windows has never looked so bright as it does this Xmas.