Bent over the shovel in her driveway on Christmas morning, she huffed and puffed as she struggled to clear a path to her old gray Chevy. Her coat, which barely covered her hulking figure, would not close anymore and made this task a very frigid one. Exhausted after just a few minutes she decided to leave this job until tomorrow when the sun was due to shine. Looking down the street and watching the neighborhood children play, she recalled how she, herself as a young girl, had so loved the blustery white days of December. Snow angels in the front yard and even better, snowballs aimed at unsuspecting boys pulling sleds down the street. She remembered snowflakes in her hair and melting on her tongue and creamy hot chocolate waiting for her when she finally came inside with a red nose and frozen fingers. She would run up the stairs and into the warm, cozy house, slamming the door hard and leaving the Christmas wreath lying upon the front porch behind her.
On Christmas Eve, her mother would hustle and bustle around the kitchen, preparing the traditional holiday meal. The house would swell with the smells of roasting turkey, yams and Dutch apple pie. Her family would stuff themselves and then retire to the sitting room where they would rest in front of a roaring fire, retelling holiday stories of days gone by, while listening intently for any signs of Santa in the sky above. Eventually, she would fall asleep on the floor only to awaken before dawn on Christmas day, somehow snugly tucked into her own bed. With eyes blinking open, she would spring out of bed, running excitedly down the stairs and straight to the front room where the majestic tree, stood proud and strong, twinkling in all its glory. Surrounding it would be colorful packages of every shape and size, decorated with sparkling bows, bells and ribbons. Her breathing would stop as she stood mesmerized, staring with awe and amazement. After a moment of the purest silence, she would let out a howl so loud that it woke the entire house! The family would gather tired and bleary eyed, around the tree and they would ohhh and ahhhh while tearing the beautiful wrapping paper off all of the presents.
Those were rich days indeed, filled with golden memories that would last a lifetime. Today, however, she walked back into the quiet house, alone. There was no tree or turkey on this Christmas morning: no carols or glowing fire. She lumbered into the bedroom where she paused to look at herself in the mirror. She stared at her swollen face and bloated body and decided that she rather resembled a snowman standing there. Her clothes were stretched to extreme limits, with buttons straining and ready to pop. She let out a huge sigh and turned her head quickly in shame. When had this transformation happened, she wondered in complete sadness? It was at this precise moment that she woefully realized that she had given up. She had not only given up on herself but she had also given up on life. She had lost her innocent, zest for adventure. The simple happiness of her youth was gone. It became an effort to even fake a smile. She forced herself to look back into the mirror again and saw the beseeching eyes, lost deep inside the flesh of her face, disappearing like a candle flame being smothered in its own melting wax.
As she observed herself, she stared into her own pleading eyes. Eyes that screamed, “Don’t give up. Fight damn it…fight!” In that moment, her heart began to beat faster and harder as she straightened her back and eyed herself unhappily. She thought she felt something snap inside of her much like a kernel of popcorn in a hot pan or the tight bud of a rose which has finally reached its bloom. Feeling a spark of fire inside, she began to feel alive. There was a renovation of epic proportion taking place within her soul. Perhaps it was a Christmas gift of sorts, a package filled with hope, strength and promise. She could not decide what it was, but only that it was happening. She realized that the road back would not be an easy one, full of twists and turns, even dead ends, but she knew she was ready. With steadfast faith and determination she took a deep breath, a last look in the mirror and spun on her heel to take the first step of what would be a very long journey. She had faith that she could do it even if she could only manage to do it one, single step at a time.
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