Today is the first day of Advent, and I’m staring at the Advent calendar cabinet I bought the year of my divorce. I love this cabinet. It’s a silver metallic wood cabinet with little mirrored numbered doors with tiny handles. It is simple and elegant, and nothing like me. The kids love it because they believe in the magic and hope and faith and love and mystery of the holidays. In our house, they believe Santa comes every night to bring a small candy, sticker, or other fun item. They love peering behind each door. Hoping, believing, trusting there will be something there each day.
I have always loved the holidays because I like to make people happy, and the holiday season allows me to concentrate my Making People Happy Operations. I found a new appreciation for the holidays when my children were born. There’s something so magical in their belief and faith of something larger, something good, something sparkly and warm and kind. I love witnessing this because I tend to be a little weatherworn when it comes to believing in goodness and faith and hope. I’m a bit wary of Trust and Hope.
So when I brought the cabinet home and set it up, I was so excited to add to the ambience of the holidays for the kids. Especially because it had been a really tough year. 2007 was, to date, the Hardest Season of My Life. My marriage ended. Another important relationship ended. My basement flooded. Twice. A tree fell on my roof. A tree fell on my car. My oven broke. My thyroid decided to underperform. Woodpeckers bore into the siding of my house–and moved into the walls of the house. The neighbor had issues, and their mice fled to the sanctuary that is my house.
So when I noticed that the door for day “18” was mistakenly hung upside down on the cabinet so it reads “81,” I just about freaked out. I threw both a conniption and a pity party. Of course this too would go badly. Nothing else in life was going well, why on earth would I imagine a simple Advent calendar would be right? This was so indicative of how my life was going. The big things in life were dissolving around me, why not the little ones too? What else could possibly go wrong?! I threw up my arms and really had at it with my hysterics. Which I’m very good at, by the way.
Then I started laughing. Really laughing–not the insane straight-jacket kind of laughter. Yes, of course, I thought. I wouldn’t return or exchange this cabinet. I had to keep it. I had to keep it to remind myself what life is about in its raw grief and mistakes. To remind myself how crazy my life was in this Season of 2007, and how crazy life can be. To remind myself that life can be turned upside down. To remind myself there will always be something that goes wrong. To remind myself that irony never killed anyone. And to remind myself that this cabinet is not perfect, yet is still beautiful, like life is. Something will always go wrong, but life is still beautiful. Behind each door there is hope and mystery. You just need to trust and have faith. And there is always another day. There is always another door. Seasons change.
These days I’m staring very hard at that number “81” wondering when and if I’ll find the strength to believe and the courage to trust again. I’m trying really hard to get to the point of believing I can open that door again and peer at what’s behind it.