I think this year feels so joyful and peaceful because I'm not dealing with gifts. Yesterday my book group met in the city for our annual Christmas gathering. Three of us take the ferry to SF and three take Bart so we aren't dealing with cars and parking, and we aren't looking for gifts. We enjoyed lunch at the Palace Hotel in SF, and savored the historic, spacious beauty of the dining room. There is a gingerbread Golden Gate Bridge and Gingerbread "Painted Ladies," and traditional gingerbread homes, some open, some closed.
Two special chairs were set up and a harpist arrived and then, Santa and Mrs. Claus. She was many years younger, and could have been an elf, not Mrs. Claus, but they sat on identical chairs, so I assume they were equal, and supposedly husband and wife. Perhaps he has taken a trophy wife. One woman near us wore a fur coat. We decided she was staying in the hotel, since you don't wander around SF in a fur coat unless you want it sprayed with yellow paint.
Children came and were given crowns. We realized our lunch overlapped the children's tea with Santa. It was just festive enough, and we wandered the streets and into Gumps, knowing none of us needed anything. We recounted Christmases past, and how the windows aren't decorated as they used to be. There was nothing to buy, just a chance to look, and at one point I realized the six of us were all smiling broadly. We were so happy and content. We were the only ones on the street smiling. We all have enough, and we know it. There is nothing, in this moment, we need, and yet one of us used a cane. She is in pain, and yet, for this one day, we walked, bonded in some beautiful sharing of beauty and contentment that was surreal. She walked slowly, as then did we, and carefully with her cane, wearing a beatific smile. It was an enchanted day. We know we are aging, gracefully, we hope, and yet, I think we felt like the youngest people in the city.
Sadly, it seems SF has lost its favorite city to visit status because of the number of homeless people, but they were "cleared out" for yesterday. We saw only one pile of human excrement. Was that part of our joy? I don't think so, since we all aware they are there, but I think we each allowed an innocence yesterday, an accepting that yes, there are a number of children who are homeless with their parents, perhaps 4% of the children in SF, living in cars and on the street, and maybe for one day, we could just savor and inhale like children who do have enough. We could remember the little Match-Seller in the story by Hans Christian Anderson and look with enchanted eyes, and maybe we, too, glimpsed and were lifted into Heaven, for a day.