Rob looked around the tiny room, with its kitchen window roughly the size of a postage stamp, and little else in the way of amenities. His eyes took in the walls that needed painting, the lumpy sofa bed that deserved heaving out the window (if there had been one big enough), the threadbare carpet, and the open suitcases that four months after the divorce he still had not got around to unpacking.
Home sweet home. Some Christmas this will be.
Navigating the Christmas party at work had been rough. For months now he had put on a front, not wanting pity from his co-workers. When first one and then another broached him about spending Christmas day with their families, he had smiled and declined, telling each one that he was flying back to Georgia for the holidays. He had family back in Atlanta, Rob told them. And his nieces were excited about having their uncle with them this year.
Problem is, Rob thought to himself, there are no nieces, no brother, no sister, no family, no one in Atlanta or anywhere else. Just me and my room with the little window over the sink.
He hadn’t felt like trimming a tree or sending out cards – who would he send them to? – or doing much of anything, really. What was the point? Nobody was coming over, nobody would know the difference.
Christmas Eve dinner was simple and quick, a couple of hot dogs and a soda from the convenience store down the street. He had thought about picking up some beer or maybe a bottle of wine to help him ease through the evening, but making the trip to the supermarket seemed like too much trouble.
Television didn’t help, either. Every channel was featuring people happily overcoming all kinds of obstacles in order to spend a merry Christmas with the people they loved. Finally, Rob had had enough and turned in for the night. Even unfolding the sofa bed was not worth the time tonight; he grabbed a pillow and a blanket and wished he could sleep right through Christmas.
Sometime late in the night, Rob was jarred awake. Something had touched him, but it wasn’t a touch that brought alarm or fear. Instead, that touch was something warm and comforting. Looking around the dark studio apartment, he saw nothing at first. Then, his eyes were drawn to the kitchen window.
That’s not right, Rob thought. It can’t be snowing here, it’s too warm. Curious, he left the sofa and made his way to the window.
Looking out, he saw a schoolyard, with kids running, playing, laughing, having a great time. They were making snowballs and tossing them at their friends. Over in one corner, there was a group of boys making a snowman. Everywhere, the children were smiling and having fun.
Rob knew the place. It was his old grammar school. He could even pick out faces of buddies he had not thought about in years. This can’t be happening, he thought. I must be dreaming.
Abruptly the scene changed. Now it was an office party. Everybody have a great time, people wearing wreaths on their heads, opening gifts, smiling and hugging as, one by one, they departed for the holidays.
His first job, and his first Christmas with them. What fun that had been!
Again, the view from the window changed. It was dark, and the scene was in what appeared to be stable set up in a cave. He saw a man and woman on the hay. Cradled in the woman’s arms was what seemed to be a newborn baby.
At first, Rob was scared. Where was this coming from? He did not know these people, did not understand what they had to do with him.
Yet, the longer he looked out the window, the lighter his burdens felt. There was something special about this scene, something that made his loneliness a little easier to bear. Somehow, he was not so alone after all. Maybe his life was in pieces right now, maybe he did not have much going for him, but for some unknown reason he was beginning to understand that he was loved by someone or something, even if nobody else was around.
Within his mind, he heard a still, small voice. “I loved you when you played in the school yard. I loved you when you started your first job. And, my child, I love you right now. I will never stop loving you.”
Tears filled Rob’s eyes, and streamed down his face. Could it be true? Could somebody still love him, even though he was such a failure, such a screw-up? The answer that resounded in his head was “YES”.
Gradually, the manger scene faded from the window, replaced by the usual bleak view of the alley. But still, Rob lingered there. The world didn’t seem quite so lonesome and unforgiving any more.
And Rob knew that Christmas Day would not be so bad after all.