It was the most amazing thing that ever happened to me. After spending twenty-five years in the dark, not knowing what everyone was talking about, I finally saw the light, literally.
Christmas Eve of ’83 started out like any other. I was four years old and couldn’t wait for Santa to land on our roof, slide down our chimney and leave all the presents under our seven-foot tree.
I couldn’t sleep. Oh, I tried, because even back then I knew the quicker you went to sleep, the quicker Christmas day would come. But I was wide awake.
That night I climbed out of bed and made my way downstairs. I knelt and placed my face through the stairway’s rails, holding on to either side like a prisoner in jail. I heard a clanking noise, but couldn’t see anything. Was that Santa? I scurried down the last steps and heard it again. The sound seemed to be coming from the basement.
Like a mouse, I tip-toed past the tree and looked around to make sure I didn’t run into any stray reindeer. The star on the top of the tree twinkled. I thought it was the most beautiful sight.
I made my way into the kitchen toward the cellar door. Could Santa be in the basement? My little hand clutched the knob and turned it. As I pulled the door open, a flash of light erupted from the cellar, so bright and hot, it flung me clear across the hallway. That was the last thing I ever saw.
I spent the next twenty-five years in complete darkness. Because I was so young at the time of the furnace explosion, being blind became second nature.
Last night was Christmas Eve, a time when I think of loss rather than of happiness. Though I’ve become comfortable in my situation, around the holidays I tend to regress. I never saw Santa Claus. I spent that night in ’83 in the hospital. Actually, my parents told me, I spent the next few weeks there.
I learned all sorts of new things over time. I have amazing hearing, I can smell, taste and feel things that most people take for granted and don’t experience to their fullest. Yes, it’s true, when you lose one sense, your others are intensified. Life is amazing in that way.
I also have my friend and helper, Jingle. I know what you’re thinking, but Jingle is a Golden Retriever. I didn’t name her. Jingle and her sisters and brothers were born on, you guessed it, Christmas day. They all were adorned with Christmas names. A little ironic if you ask me, but life can be that way.
Jingle has been with me for three years now. I don’t know what I would do without her. She’s my best friend, my nurse, my helper, and sometimes a pain in my you know what, but I love her.
I felt something warm and wet on my face. I wiped it away and turned over. The licking continued, only more intensified and with the weight of a hundred pounds of retriever lying on top of me.
“Jingle, go away, just a few more minutes, girl.” I rolled over and tried to get into a comfortable position, but the nudging and licking continued.
“All right, I’ll get up.” I stretched my arms above my head, and yawned. I ran my fingers through my hair, and then through Jingle’s fur. “Hey, girl, it’s Christmas.”
I wrapped my arms around her and something strange happened. I saw this light coming from across the living room. “Am I dreaming?”
I closed my eyes, turned my head toward the tree and slowly opened them. The Christmas Star my mother gave me a few years ago came into focus. The lights on the tree sparkled and shimmered. The tinsel twinkled, and I could see the ornaments my mother had collected and hung for me as clear as day.
I don’t know how long I clung to Jingle, staring at the Christmas star, before I finally picked up the phone and called my parents. “Mommy? Merry Christmas, I can see our star.”