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Beautiful Boy

Christmas evolves.

As a child it’s a time of unquestioned magic. Delirious with excitement, we charged about like maniacs while wonderful things fell all around us. Time had no meaning. Everything and everybody was imperishable and glowing, weightless.

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As adults, now visited by disappointment and loss, sidetracked and mortal, Christmas has a depth that often feels like weight. Everything ages– we miss people and sometimes, we miss the people we were, too. Vulnerable in ways we never quite imagined, we watch the children now, and knowing that all things change, a subtle undercurrent of nostalgia and melancholy runs through the holiday, and even as we’re living the moment, we’re aware of its passing.

This year, our families were with us, intact and safe.

It’s a stunningly beautiful thing, that, and to consider for one moment all the small, unseen miracles that took place in order to keep us together through the years, distance and unimaginable fires is to be filled with respect and gratitude.

At any rate, all families are miracles, and on this Christmas there were probably around 20 of us sitting around a long, make-shift table. Our two nephews are about 11 and 13 now, and we’ve had the privilege of being close to them and watching them grow.

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They look like angels. Talented and mysterious, they hover on a periphery as if a beautiful visitation.

Their parents told us that they wanted to do a small performance after dinner, and when the time came they quietly, shyly, even, stood at the end of the table– one wearing the fur hunting cap that he got for Christmas, the other with bracelets of candy on his thin wrists. Then, after glancing at one another and nodding, they began to snap their fingers in rhythm and sing.

I had never heard them sing before. I’d never even thought about it. And so, right there, something I had never considered, something I had never imagined, was taking place before me. And they sang beautifully. It was utterly stunning, as dislocating and awesome a discovery as if suddenly finding a majestic snow-capped mountain where the 7-11 had always been. It was, I thought, magic.

They were singing the old John Lennon song “Beautiful Boy,” and they were singing it to Jones, our four month old baby boy. They weren’t up there looking for attention or validation, they weren’t pushed by their parents. They were self-directed and acting out of love. It was a pledge, I think, a rite of welcome. Jones would always be protected and loved by everybody in that room and the family beyond. It was such a pure and astonishing moment, so holy, that it felt like time expanded in all directions and was really just one big circle that contained us all.

It was not an easy year for us, but Lord, we were so lucky, and there was Jones, sitting on the lap of his beaming mother, and all around him, for as many years as could be counted, family, each one a loving star in his cosmos.

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