Little did I know that when my mother called me the other day it represented my being caught up in an eddy of magic that would last about an hour and a half. I, like you, don’t know what magic is but, as the story goes about the Supreme Court judges, we know it when we see it. And it hardly surprises me that it happened that day, being as we are in the Christmas season and Christmas always seems to deliver some form of magic. It is, after all, a wonderful life.
My mother’s first words commanded my attention though I felt no alarm per se just then. “Matthew, I’m shaking right now.” She then explained how moments before, she had been wrapping some packages. She had just crossed the room having retrieved some ribbon from a bag of such stuff, when she turned around and there on the floor before her sat small, red velvet pouch. It was sitting right in the path she had just crossed, though she certainly hadn’t seen it when she’d walked that way, and certainly hadn’t been carrying any such thing and dropped it herself. She didn’t immediately recognize this pouch, but a signal shot through her of familiarity all the same, of familiarity and great anticipation, that is.
I doubt my mother paused just then to savor that feeling, though she deserved to. This is my mother’s fourth Christmas without my father, and I can’t help but think, well though she is a very good Christian, and well though her passion for Christmas is a robust force in her life, that she must have to push herself, maybe even hard, to summons any measure of the gaiety that has characterized this season throughout her life. Instead, Christmas is now a sadder, more solitary project for my mother for the loss of my father; I mean, how could it be otherwise? In working up her plans for where she would go and with whom she’d be during the actual holiday itself, this season has demanded an extra dose of flexibility and reengineering on her part, given the usual squall of family holiday dynamics. In any case, that the work of Christmas was perhaps more forcefully displacing the joy of Christmas for her just then would come as no surprise.
Until a small, red velvet pouch showed up, that is.
I believe it was two years before my Dad died that he and my mother made the momentous decision to travel to Europe with a group of friends. My dad’s health was a concern at that point, but it was one of those things that made the case for them going as much as it may have given them pause to do so. For their choice, during which my Dad’s health held up well, they were rewarded by having had a comprehensively wonderful time. Except, that is, for the fact that when they returned, my mother discovered that a few pieces of jewelry she had hid to be safe were not to be found. She tore the house apart, as it goes, to no avail in trying to find that jewelry.
Six years later, that jewelry was considered long lost to the abyss of life, I assure you. Two days ago, at the task of wrapping packages, that jewelry was probably the last thing on my mother’s mind, I assure you. And that day, that jewelry is exactly what she found ensconced in that precious small, red velvet pouch sitting so gently on the floor before her, set there as if by the hand of God itself (perhaps as encouraged by the spirit of my father, let us allow).
I was tickled, of course, by this story, and the absolute thrill in my mother’s voice as she recounted it. Oh, and did I mention that this happened on December 12, two days before my father’s birthday? Magic! Nine days, for that matter, before my parents’ anniversary? MAGIC!
So tickled was I, in fact, that it was one of the first things I then shared with my lunch date, Ruth Benz, when we met at a local restaurant. That was where I was going in the car when my mother called me. Ruth is one of my very favorite colleagues, a lifelong teacher of the highest caliber, and the person who taught me so very much about how school’s work during my early years at the Priory. Ruth and I used to have offices next to each other, and I was constantly dropping in on her to ask her my next question about this or that. When we tore down the faculty office building a few years ago, we were then sent to different parts of the campus for our new offices, and I don’t get nearly the facetime with Ruth I used to. I regret the timing of this, as Ruth’s husband Bill passed away completely unexpectedly about two years ago. Thus my suggestion of us going out for lunch this day, to allow for a little seasonal celebration, and for me to let Ruth know I do think and care a lot about her.
During lunch I learned that Ruth would be going up to her son’s house in Chico on Christmas day, Christmas Eve being when he and his family would spend time with his in-laws. I was suddenly anxious at the thought of Ruth being alone on Christmas Eve, and asked her to come join our family that night. Ruth seemed appreciative at the gesture, but I think she would prefer to be at her own home that night, and is working on a plan to be joined there by another single friend. Which is great, as long as she can work that out.
I was thinking about this when I returned to my car after we’d parted when I stopped dead in my tracks, shocked by what I saw on the car parked next to me. It was the car’s license plate that held me transfixed, that caused me to literally shake my head in order to confirm what I was seeing. It read, “B Benz.” The car parked next to me bore Ruth’s husband’s name!
But life wasn’t finished with this sort of thing just yet, I soon found out. It had two more parlor tricks in store for me before I would get home.
As I drove home not thinking too deeply about the insanity of the two coincidences that had just played out—more just marveling at them—I suddenly had to slow down as I passed the carwash where two hours before I’d had my own car cleaned. Another sparkling clean car was pulling out of the lot, causing me to slow. And of course, parlor trick number one, that car was a graphite Tesla X, exactly like the one I was driving. Voila!
Finally, as you know I love my music, and mostly just set my phone on shuffle and let whatever songs play randomly that are in my system. My music affinity can be a handy tool, and had been at the start of this day, when Ann and I went and did a group class at our workout studio. When a song came on that morning and one of our classmates wondered aloud who was the artist, Ann encouraged Grace to ask me, which she did. “Jane, by Jefferson Starship,” I immediately answered. I held back on telling her it came out in 1979, that the band is (of course) from San Francisco, was originally Jefferson Airplane, had lived at 2400 Fulton Street and had even named one of their albums that, “2400 Fulton Street.” That all would have been too showy of me, of course, but the rock historian in me did think all these things just then all the same.
Back to the present. As I pulled onto our street the next song came up on my system, and I barked out a laugh at the wonder of it all. It was a song—at this point, of course!—off of 2400 Fulton Street. The song’s title? “Today.”