a christmas secret

...between me and you.

remember how i mentioned that i wasn't in the christmas spirit? i blamed it on the weather and the absence of scarves and mittens.

well, i was lying. i wasn't in the christmas spirit because i wasn't feeling loved.

dumb, i know. but this is my first christmas away from my family. i never realized just how important their presence was to me on this silly holiday until it came. they don't care for christmas too much, or follow any real tradition, except for the effort of coming together. this year, my family didn't come together. and this year, i feel the absence of their presence like a gaping hole in my side. that hole was stretched a bit wider when amber's parents arrived for the week because, though having them here is great, it reminds me how far away my loved ones are.

so last night, there i was feeling alone and unloved in amber's parents' hotel room, not realizing that amber and her family were loving me just as well... and that's when we heard it.

amber and i were sitting at the table, each about to shovel a heap of her mom's cheesy grits into our mouths when we both paused, spoons half-way to our faces. we were quiet. then we both looked at each other with eyes that simultaneously asked and assured that we were hearing the same thing. the same thing that her parents were too consumed with espn to hear.

amber and i slowly got up, eyes locked in wonder. we looked around the room then ran to the front door giggling. it's not like us to get up and run in search of the source of a strange sound, but there we were running out the door and into the night.

and then we found this:

it's a hazy picture, but it's the source of the sound: a group of island christmas carolers.

they were standing outside the sapphire condos, singing classic christmas songs with a caribbean twist. it was the last thing in the world i expected to find there and it overwhelmed me completely. i put my hands to my face and cried.

nothing could've been more beautiful to me in that moment than that group of people who volunteered to spend the night singing in harmony and spreading the christmas spirit. the spirit of love and goodwill. those things that i thought i was missing came over me all at once and i stood overwhelmed.

other visitors and residents from the condos came out, too. amber's parents came out and we all hugged as we listened.

and when the carolers were done singing, i hugged them. i hugged them and thanked them all.

this means more to me than i can tell you.

the coming together of family for the holidays isn't always possible. the coming together of loved ones is. i let the absence of my family blind me from the love of my friends and the love of absolute strangers--strangers willing to open their arms to a teary-eyed barefoot girl at sapphire beach.

thank you, sweet angel island carolers, for reminding me to feel the love--there is always love.