My green, furry heart

by Esther Emery

Do you all know Chelsea? This is Chelsea.


She’s the MOXIE IT department, and a director and photographer. She has the rare gift of being a genuinely helpful assistant director, and with her artist’s eye and mathematical brain, I’ll wager she’s going to make a very fine lighting designer as well.

She’s helping me with my Christmas shopping.

Lest you think that she’s helping me to organize my list, or to brainstorm gift ideas for those hard-to-buy-for adult males, let me clarify.  She’s helping me with Christmas shopping. Any Christmas shopping. I’ve been told that there comes a time in every parent’s life when you rise above your personal likes and dislikes in order to do the right thing for your family. (Besides poopy diapers, that is.) For me, that time is Christmas.

Hello, it’s nice to meet you, I’m the Grinch.

I’ve tried a lot of ways to make Christmas livable.  I’ve worked sixteen hours at a nursing home, wondering why I didn’t have more competition for those prime shifts that earned double-time-and-a-half and no family. I’ve gone to church. I’ve gone out for Chinese food and a movie. I’ve gone out for Thai food and a movie (same principle, better food.) I’ve spent days and hours making elaborate homemade Christmas presents, and I’ve foregone them completely.  Two years ago I got rip-roaring drunk and punched my husband, or rather I got rip-roaring drunk and punched my husband, twice.  Sad to say, it didn’t really make me feel better.

Still, every year, without fail, the calendar page turns and my green, furry heart starts to hurt. For this child of divorce, Christmas will always bring me the memory of my mother loading her kids onto a Greyhound bus, the small, squishy misery that is snow without boots, and the struggle to make out the dark shape of a closet in the unfamiliar downstairs bedroom where I was expected to sleep all by myself.

I don’t like Christmas.

This is where Chelsea comes in. She has experienced the loss of more than one dear family member in recent months. I’ve been pretending to offer some kind of emotional support: an attentive ear, appreciative company, apple cinnamon tea. But in fact, I’m basking in her wealth. A hundred losses can’t take away Chelsea’s family. Death can’t take away Chelsea’s family. Chelsea loves her family.

And I feel blessed to witness the richness of her grief.

Chelsea tells me that it is her personal goal to make her mother cry every Christmas. She smiles as she says this. I’m looking at her like she’s an alien.

But we’re enjoying this exchange, particularly in the interest of increasing positive energy.  We’re not the only corner of the MOXIE tapestry that is working on positive energy these days.  This bizarre late Santa Ana has carried with it some lonely times, and some challenging times, and even some sorrow for a few of the MOXIE’s and a few of the people we love.

MOXIE community, activate.

Chelsea and I are working on the idea that inviting someone you like to spend time with you is neither dangerous for your health, nor necessarily a sign of weakness. Extroverts, we hear, have been doing it for centuries. But Chelsea and I are not extroverts. We are worker bees. We work and work and create and selflessly support other people’s creativity, and if you want to be friends with us, it’s probably going to be up to you to pick up the phone, because we’re still at rehearsal.

Obviously, we run into a snag when trying to be friends with each other.  But we’re working on it, and at least when I’m not busy blogging, we’re making progress.

The other aspect of my “Christmas problem” is an embarrassing sensitivity to tales of heart-opening and generosity. The season never passes without some NPR human interest story turning me into a sobbing mess at the side of the road, and even though I’ve stage managed A Christmas Carol three times now, I still can’t get through even the sloppy first run-through with dry eyes.

In Cygnet’s production, Tiny Tim sings a little solo:

What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part, But what I can I give Him, give my heart.

Thanks, Chelsea.