Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Sweet is the sound of a carol sung by a choir...And sweeter still is life to me."

Some days are so perfect that they spill over into the days before and after.  In this case, it began early on Christmas Eve.  By the time the sun rose I was driving bomb #711 across Yellowstone.  The day was clear and the air sparkled.  At noon my first Christmas wish came true--a change in schedule meant I would get Christmas off. 

Later, I picked up my parents and sister in West Yellowstone in the afternoon.  We were lucky enough to have a coach to ourselves as we drove back to Old Faithful and watched the sun go down behind the Madison Plateau.  The snow reflected the colours of the sunset and the half moon began to rise.  It had been dark a long time when I finally finished cleaning the coach that evening, but Christmas was waiting in the dorm room I had reserved for my family.  It was a little room with two beds with barely enough space for the four of us to all be in it at the same time, but Eve had arranged the presents under a paper tree my nieces and nephews in Japan had sent. 

We walked through the cold night to the Snowlodge where George plays piano in the evenings.  Music is a part of my family and a part of Christmas, so Eve and I didn't hesitate to step up and sing along with the carols he played.  Before we had finished the first phrase a father and daughter joined saying, "We were just waiting for someone to start singing first."  Soon so many stood around the piano they crowded together to see the words and filled the hotel with music celebrating the birth of our Christ.  Couples stood hand in hand, sisters arm in arm, and children stood all around George. 

I found myself smiling at strangers across the impromptu choir who were laughing and smiling at me as well. 
We all became friends and as we celebrated this special holiday far from home.  Some couldn't sing because their voices choked as their eyes filled with tears.  One man stood on the edges of the crowd alone, rarely singing but with moist eyes.  By the fireplace another man seemed to sleep in an armchair, but his lips moved silently with the words of the music.  Time flew and eventually children were put to bed, families drifted away, and George ended for the evening saying, "That was a very rare evening."  No one felt as alone in the woods on Christmas Eve.

Christmas morning found the four of us crowded in and sleeping in the same dorm room.  For the first time in my life, we opened presents in our pajamas (I'm sure it will be the only time in the history of the Eddington Family).  We went on a ski through and to nearby geyser basins.  Every geyser seemed to be erupting and celebrating as well.  Eve and I talked and talked as we skied about boys, jobs, dreams, New Year goals, and hair cuts.  The talking helped keep our faces from freezing.  There is no friend like a sister.

The highlight of the afternoon was removing my stitches (I got to "unwrap" my knee for Christmas).  Soon evening found us in the lobby of the Snowlodge again for a little more music, reading, and lots more talking.  It was a Christmas so different from any that I've known.  This year I missed so many of the things that make me think about Christmas.  There were no decorated trees--no decorations at all, no shopping, no parties, no Ward Party or Ward Choir program, no goodies to and from neighbors, no lights, and for most of my friends here there was no Christ.  I felt His spirit in the beauty of nature, but even more in being with family and hearing from many friends far away (even if it is through mass-text).  My family left the next morning.

This Christmas couldn't have been better.  There were little blessings and miracles at every turn--some that I won't write online.  The last was that on Sunday I had the day off and had a ride to church in West Yellowstone.  In the parking lot I found my parents and a crew of nieces and nephews there for church during their stay at the cabin.  I loved snuggling with nieces during church and warming my frozen fingers on their cheeks.  Every Christmas wish, even those I didn't dare to dream, came true.

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