The Magic of December at the British Museum – 2010

December can be a mournful month, with certain days being particularly difficult. My mother died on this day (15th)  in 1987.  Every December 15th throws me a bubble off plumb all day – not half a bubble, a whole bubble off.

I had an equally bad December in 1991. That was the year cancer visited our house. My Christmas letter that year started out with a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself -I lived through this horror, I can take the next thing that comes along. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”  Then I talked about our child and leukemia.

Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels

December 2000 wasn’t a great month either. We had completed two years of assignment in England, and were being transferred to the Middle East. It wasn’t a move I was looking forward to. The first half of the month was consumed with packing and movers. On December 15 I locked the door of our rental house for the last time, and caught a train into London. With half a day free to do as I wanted, I started walking, and eventually found myself in front of the British Museum. I went inside, and just kept walking. I went from one display to another without any thought about where I was going, and not really paying much attention to what I was seeing. I just knew it was warmer than being outside.

That was when the Magic of December kicked in. I suddenly I found myself in the Egyptian Mummies room. Standing in front of a display of grave goods, I  remembered that it was December 15th. I  thought about how interested my mom had been in archaeology. I remembered a book she used to show me when I was a kid – Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels – which included pictures of Egypt’s pyramids.  I thought about how she had never traveled outside of North America, and never seen most of the things that she showed me in that book.

I spent the rest of the afternoon looking at the British Museum through my mothers eyes.  I thought about all the foreign places I had visited – places that my mom only saw in the Complete Book of Marvels. I thought about how ironic it was that I was traveling, which I never intended to do; and she didn’t travel, which she always wanted to do.

The truly magic part of December, for me, is that it doesn’t matter what December dishes out, I still simply love the whole month. I love the music and the lights and the stories and the decorations. I love the magic thought of Santa Claus. I love the prospect of one day a year when most of the world is united in peace, just like that Christmas Day in the trenches in 1914. December is a Magic Month if you let the good bits guide your sleigh…

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