Something's in the Air

And no, it's not the smell of a dried out pine tree in my living room. Nor is it the unfortunate aftermath of eating candied sweet potatoes for 4 days in a row (why do I make them, when I know I'm the only one who will eat them?).

It's the "New Year Smell" and it starts wafting its way through my sinuses every year about this time.

It's the smell of change. Sometimes it reeks of loss and regret, other times, like this year? It carries with it a bouquet of hope and positiveness. A cautious hope, though.

The last time I felt hopeful like this, I mean like capital H Hopeful, Big Daddy came out of the shadows and hit me with a surprise left-hook that not only knocked me down for the count but to be honest with you...almost killed me. So nowadays I look to the future with eyes wide open, but also with my arms held up defensively. Maybe that's the right way to do it?

I remember last year at about this time I proudly crowed that 2010 was going to be the year that Jenny got her groove back (my apologies to Ms. McMillan). Looking back now I have to laugh. Get my groove back? Please. This was the year I found the tattered and torn remains of my groove. Getting it back will take some time.

I think it's time.

Last year at about this time I had officially given up in the fight to keep my house. Our Christmas last year was, for lack of a better word, tragic. It was almost Dickensonian, with the poor, tired mom huddled with her four little Tiny Tim babies trying to find scraps of good in the pile of bad we'd been dealt. I was exhausted from the beating I'd taken financially. I'd lost a friend or two, lost the relationship with my dad that I had treasured, watched my mom decline even further in the clutches of Parkinson's and iffy life choices.

Last year I had hit the bottom.

But...2010 was the year that I started crawling upwards instead of clinging to the sides. 2010 was the year that not only did I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I felt it. I felt it on my face like you feel those first warm-ish rays of sun in April.

It felt good.

2010 was the year that I formed new friendships and old ones were strengthened. Toxic relationships were pruned like gnarled, unproductive branches on a rose bush. As far as friends go, 2010 was the year that I realized how lucky I am. I've said it before but I'll say it again...I may be a risk financially, but friendship-wise I'm in the black.

Our Christmas this year was wonderful. Oh, don't get me wrong..I'm still tired and if you squint your eyes a bit I bet you could see Tiny Tim lurking around here somewhere, but it was wonderful. It was the polar opposite of last year. I had saved a little here and there and was able to get each child one or two things. They had each told me one thing that they really, really wanted and I made sure they had it. I didn't get out to do my shopping until days before the 25th, but I did it.

But something started happening a week or two before Christmas. A gift card arrived in the mail. And then another. And another. Gift cards for our favorite pizza place. Gift cards for our grocery store. Some were anonymous, some were signed. And if you're reading this, gift card givers? Thank you. I want you to know that your gift was appreciated and that you, my friends, are loved. More than once I was lucky enough to be standing next to one of my kids when I opened the mail, and more than once I had a child say to me, "You have the best friends". I would smile through the waterworks that came with each card and say, "Yep. I do."

One day, about 5 days prior to The Big Day, a large manila envelope was deposited in my mailbox. In it was another gift card to our grocery store, and the following note:

"Dear Jenny,

We at the North Pole hear that the Grinch threatens to dampen your Christmas this year. We also know that you and your children have been very, very nice and keep the spirit of Christmas in your hearts no matter what. So, we've decided to make your Christmas a little brighter.

Enclosed is a gift card with which to buy the Christmas feast: the roast beast, pudding and hash.

Please don't worry about your children this year. Santa will send a special elf on Christmas Eve to your house with gifts for all. Enjoy the season. Keep them safe and warm. Love them as you do. We'll do the rest.

Merry Christmas,

Santa's Elves"

I also received a phone call from a friend who has silently supported me through the past year. She's one of my quieter friends, we don't socialize as often as I wish we did. Her daughter goes to my school and she and I have a special relationship.

This soft-spoken, beautiful friend called and said that her family wanted to help me out. "Tell me what your family needs this year" she said.

That letter, and that phone call both had the same affect on me: of course I cried, because that's how I roll...you know that by now. I'm a big crybaby. But more than that...they lifted me up. They took a big old flash light and pointed the beam at the good in my life, at the good in this world and said, "Here ya go, Jenny. Proof positive that things will be ok."

More important than that...they showed my kids the good. These people, my quiet friend and the anonymous Elves and the gift card mailers, they did what I've been trying to do for the past couple of years.

They showed my kids the power of love. The power of love wrapped up tight in a layer of Christmas spirit. Tied with a bow made of friendship.

I couldn't have done it by myself.

2010 was a good year for many reasons. It was a scary year, too. But as it limps slowly towards the end, I am riding high on the rush my friends have given me. I'm still aglow with the memories of my kids having multiple presents to open on Christmas morning, of being able to sit there and watch their faces as they held up sweatshirts and lounge pants and gift cards and books that they probably didn't think they'd get. Watched as my daughter quietly read the words of Emily Dickinson and my youngest son pored through a book about the late, great Minnesota North Stars. Saw my handsome manchild smile as he tried on his new clothes. Saw my sweet Henry do fist pumps when he found not one, but three coveted books under the tree.

We were alone on Christmas morning. Physically alone, but the room was crowded spiritually. Elbow-to-elbow, in fact. Standing room only.

It was a good crowd.

I'm keeping that letter, and in less glowy times I'll read it just to remind myself that I'm not alone. I'm also keeping it because I know that someday it will be my turn to be someone's elf. It will be my turn to find someone who is struggling and who needs my help.

And it will be a pleasure to lend a hand. I can't wait.


  1. ::Jusy slams her head on the table and weeps::

  2. I love you Jenny!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You so deserve everything you get! You are phenomenal and I am so proud to know you!


  3. You were rich with love from your friends. People would only do this for someone who richly deserved it, who is also a great friend, a good person who is doing the best she can, You get what you give, and you give love, friendship, hope, optimism and laughter. Of course, that is what you will get back. It's what you are! So happy for you and your family. Love is out there and all around us. We just have to focus on that love. You are an amazing woman and mother and so many people see that. I'm rambling but it's because there are tears in my eyes. I'll stop now :)


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