Hundreds of white lights glisten on the ice-covered trees in the Boston Gardens. Shoppers carry bags overflowing with packages as they meander along snowy, winding paths, and lovers, wrapped in each other’s arms, kiss in the lamplight. Dogs, excited for their nightly walk, pull their owners along.
I turn from my view outside the window, and see my daughters chatting with their grandparents by the decorated tree. It’s Christmas Eve. Elizabeth, propped up by pillows, rests on the down-filled sofa while Alex wraps a few more presents. I close my eyes as though they are the shutter of a camera lens and make a picture in my mind, one to never forget.
It’s a miracle that we’re here. Over the past few weeks, Elizabeth hasn’t even had the strength to walk into the bathroom only ten steps away. Sips of ginger ale and mouthfuls of applesauce have sustained her. But days ago, when my parents invited my daughters and me to spend the night in the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston, Elizabeth’s spirits rose; she ate a bit more, hobbled down the corridor, and cautiously climbed into long-hoped-for soaking bath.
On Christmas Eve, my parents pick us up, drive us to Boston, and we walk into a lobby bustling with guests, sparkling with festive lights, and graced by a twenty-foot adorned tree surrounded with brightly colored presents. Dad speaks to the hotel manager and then tells us, “Our rooms are not ready yet, so they’d like us to stay in different rooms.” In the elevator, the hotel manager presses the top floor button marked “PS,” which surprises me. We step out, and he opens the door to our “reassigned” rooms, a vast suite decorated with floral arrangements, a fully ornamented Christmas tree, and a teddy bear the size of a cub that sits on the sofa. Elizabeth immediately shuffles over, picks up the bear, and holds it tightly. My eyes fill with tears.
After we settle into the Presidential Suite, high tea appears, with scones, butter, and jam and a surprise gift of chocolate-covered strawberries from Molly and her daughter, Annie, one of Elizabeth’s best friends. This is a dream come true—a magical Christmas for my girls.
Early on Christmas morning, I first greet my parents, who are placing gifts under the Christmas tree. I find Elizabeth in front of elegant mirrors in the bathroom putting on makeup and her natural-hair wig. She hugs me and then walks into the bedroom to waken Alex. “It’s Christmas, Alex! Wake up!” We enjoy a delicious breakfast of fruit, muffins and croissants, scrambled eggs, orange juice, and tea in our suite. We open presents and share memories, and my girls cuddle in Nana and Grampy’s big bed. For twenty-four hours, it’s as though Elizabeth, Alex, and I are living in a fairy tale filled with gifts of love and joy.
Now, years later on this dark afternoon, I look into the bright, flickering flames of my wood-burning stove, close my eyes, and once again bring into focus the picture in my mind from long ago.