This Magic Moment
I am one of those people whose phone always rings when she thinks about someone (not just friends or family--also doctor's offices or brokers or long-lost colleagues) and around whom streetlights flicker constantly. I'm sure you know someone else like this. More than once I've heard someone say (at a party or a meeting or such) when I arrive, "Oh good! Courtney's here. Now something will happen." I wish I could accept that compliment, but I don't really do anything--stuff just seems to happen around me. None of it is particularly good or bad or comforting or scary, but it certainly can be strange. I could call it "God" or "the universe" or "karma" or "coincidence" or "faith" or "ghosts", but, for now, let's call it "magic". When my dinner date says, "I hope they have that sacher-torte for the dessert special again," they do. When the kid on my camping trip says, "I hope we see a donkey on this hike," we will. When my drinking buddy says, "I hope Scott drops by tonight," he appears.
I had a very magical experience one Christmas, several years ago. Of course, Christmas is magical for lots of people in different ways--children discovering the new bicycle Santa brought them, parents admiring their new grandchildren at the dining room table for the first time, acolytes lighting the final Advent wreath candle--but there was a time in my life when I had no Christmas magic of my own. I was too old to care about presents, too young to have children, and not much interested in the liturgy. I had also traveled to my parents' house, in my hometown, for the holiday, minus my boyfriend who had refused to meet my family and then gone to Grand Cayman without me after our huge fight.
So I was magic-free that Christmas but had agreed to help my mother with altar flowers at our church (site of christenings, weddings, and funerals for many generations of our family). Mother's supplier had fouled up her order and had half as many flowers as she'd wanted, and half of those were wrong, so we had been scrambling to find what we needed. For HOURS that morning we went to florists and supermarkets and neighbors' houses and even a farm to gather odds and ends of flowers. We had made two large arrangements of the scavenged supplies and they were okay, though not up to Mother's exacting creative standards. We needed more greenery so headed out again to seek trimmings at Christmas tree lots. We found none. The lots were closed down, and empty or chain-link fenced so all we got was a paltry branch or two. With only two hours until the first Christmas Eve service and a Parish House already filling with eager eight-year old shepherds and angels, we decided to go home and prune my parents' own Christmas tree, right there in the living room, and use that to finish the altar.
I was driving a little too fast, really, since there was no traffic and we were panicking about completing the arrangements. I was racing through an amber traffic light at the crest of a hill when I saw something big lying across the road just ahead of us. I slammed on the brakes, banging our heads and locking our belts, and stopped just inches from what I was sure had to be a sad holiday drunk, passed out in the road. We stopped screaming, got out of the car, and rushed forward to find... a Christmas tree. A sad, broken, Charlie Brown of a Christmas tree, but one with enough green branches to fill our empty vases. A Christmas tree that, like me, had no Christmas purpose but that had been magically delivered nearly on top of probably the only two people in town who had any need of it. It could only be MAGIC that would take an ugly, unwanted tree and give it to an ugly, unwanted girl, who would give it to a beautiful, fancy church that would give her back some real faith in magic.