Terry Marotta: The moments that let our spirits soar

Terry Marotta

The past few days, I found myself yearning to seek out the kind of Santa’s Village event that people can come to with their pets, and after much searching, I finally found a Sunday evening one in a small-scale mall.

But we’d had lots of bad weather and the roads were so bad, I thought I’d see few in attendance: a dog or two in reindeer antlers maybe, or a lone cat in a holiday collar.

Instead, I found a line that snaked from Santa’s Village all the way out to the mall’s entrance, and so many pet owners clambering over crusty snowbanks with their cat condos and their leashes that I began wondering if people don’t see such an event as a Blessing of the Animals in disguise.

Indeed, watching for an hour at the North Pole gates of this pet-friendly stage set, I did come to sense something of the serious, and even reverent, amid the friendly joshing.

And I guess this makes sense, because has not the human race always been moved to take that which is most precious and bring it forth? In the children’s Christmas story, what does that littlest angel do but offer the small battered box of things most dear to him in his short life? In the Bible, what does Abraham come and lay on the altar but his much-loved only child Isaac?

At this season, we are most mindful of what we have brought to the altar; given up or given over.

The single-parent mother who raised me was 20 years dead last Thursday, and so again this year I brought out the brightly-colored party clothes she wore at the moment of her sudden passing.

My husband’s widowed mother would have been 90 last Sunday. One day early in her battle against the gathering darkness of Alzheimer’s, she wrote the word “Attention!” with such force on a piece of paper that the letters engraved themselves on the polished wood of her writing desk. We think about this mark and this valiant lady, too.

All of us have lost. All have offered up something, and at this season we feel such loss most keenly.

A child of ours lost her health this year.

Last summer at age 29 and mere weeks before finding out she was pregnant with her first child, she learned that rheumatoid arthritis was the cause of the recent pain in her hands and feet.

Pregnancy suppresses the symptoms of RA though, and for six whole weeks after the baby came, she felt plain wonderful.

“I thought I had dreamed it all,” she said in early July. That’s when the symptoms came roaring back to life.

She calls her hands her “flippers,” because they’re about that useful to her, and at night she wakes to find herself holding them aloft, like two swollen and aching mittens.

I found it hard to see the expression on her father’s face the first time he saw her use the insides of her two wrists to lift a small glass of water to her mouth.

She has made an offering of her hale young athlete’s body, and she has found this offering hard, though will not say as much.

Ah, but then she has this darling baby now, who brings her joy unending. 

Our children, our pets and all the weak and the voiceless in our care: They bring us self-forgetting, and prove the truth of that wonderful prayer of St. Francis, which teaches us that in comforting we are comforted, in loving we are loved, and in every kind of dying we are born into a new and far higher life.

Write Terry at tmarotta@comcast.net, or www.VacationingInMyDriveway.com or Ravenscroft Press, Box 270, Winchester, MA 01890.