Merry Christmas

There is probably a word for what I experienced last night. It is similar to an epiphany, the word that James Joyce revived to describe a transformational moment, in which you suddenly experience a profound insight about yourself and your life. It can hit you unexpectedly and without warning.

Last night, after my wife cooked a delicious dinner for a small group at her parents’ house, we came home to wrap presents. The three of us each took a room, Nina in her bedroom, Sarah in her study, and I in the living room with the Christmas tree. I turned on a CD of Diana Krall singing Christmas carols, plugged in the lights on the tree, and sat on the floor to wrap stocking gifts.

When I had finished wrapping, I put away the paper, ribbons, and tape in the attic and returned to the living room to sit in a chair and listen to the music. We live on a quiet street without street lights, and the neighbors at the back were away, so outside was silent except for the steady rain.

I sat right in front of the tree and gazed from one ornament to another, lingering mostly on the hand-painted, ceramic figures that my stepdaughter’s great-grandmother sent to her, every year at Christmas, and also at the hand-made ornaments that Nina herself brought home from school as a small child.

Christmas tree ornaments have a special, evocative power over me. They appear every year for a week or two and recall other Christmas Eves and Christmas mornings, first in your own childhood and then in your children’s. They are celebratory and colorful, and the best of them are simple. These favorites of mine are tiny reminders of our family’s joy and love.

The word I am looking for describes a brief, personal experience that allows you a sweet, simple appreciation that you are who you are, that there is nothing you would change.

You might call it a blessing.