The Ghost of Christmas Past

E.j.Christmas morning at “Da” House

At times it is difficult filling beds around the holiday season. It is a tough time out there for women who have been marginalized. Children have been lost, families have disowned, and boyfriends still beat up at will. Christmas is the time to get as high as you can and flat line any feeling and memory about the gross of Christmas past. Christmas is a day that sticks out, like a snapshot. A picture you can’t get out of your head unless you’ve nodded off, passed out or tweaked out of your mind; at least the heart doesn’t hurt as much.

So it is difficult to even think about being clean at a time like this.

But here and there, at a detox, or a couch surfing, or a moment of lucidity a phone is picked up and the number is dialed. “Good morning, Charlford House, Kaela speaking”, is the first thing you hear in a communication with the place that will save your life. There’s an old saying, “you can’t save your ass and your face at the same time”, it’s another phrase for humility, you know, the humility that lets you ask for help, and finally lets you know clearly about the mess you’re in.

As tough as it is, the devil chasing you up the 12 stairs of Charlford House is just a little bit stronger that day than the devil that made you do the drug. As scared as you are, its scarier out there, you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.

So Boot Camp takes on a Christmassy flavour. You might hear, “uh-uh that’ll be the day I go Christmas carolling around the hood!” Or perhaps a conversation might be heard with someone saying something like, “ I didn’t sign up for flipping pancakes at the school for the kids and their parents!”. But soon the decorations are dragged out and an unfamiliar feeling comes over you when you and 14 other giggling girl women begin to deck the halls in unity. And the tree goes up, and “Da House” becomes a magical place that some had never experienced before.

We have a group session once in awhile about Creating one’s own reality. Reality is based on past experiences we have had in our lifetimes whether as a children or as new as yesterday. Each event that takes place is checked against all other previous events and we create a reality closest to that experience. Our perceptions and thought creates feelings and words, which in turn creates ones reality. Our job is to create a different experience, an experience that will change previous perceptions to positive ones, ones that will be recreated every year for a lifetime. That’s what happens at a Charlford Christmas.

Every day the presents pile higher under the tree. The carolling up and down the block created a memory that will never fade as the women journal about the feelings of community and being a part of something good. The tree sparkles and warm light splashes on the ceiling and walls. Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house not a woman was stirring not even a mouse (licensing would not be happy). The children were tucked in bed with their Moms, and little heads dreaming of sweet sugar plums.

 A night staff alumna relaxes on the couch in the quiet, staring at the lights, remembering her first Christmas… seems so long ago. The fear and despair melting away in the 12 Steps. A small smile plays upon her lips as she thinks of the love in her new life, her family, and her new friends that really do have her back in all the right ways. She thinks about her new reality as she sinks into her pillow and closes her eyes.

BAM!!!!! It’s Christmas morning, the kids are already tussling around the living room, the coffees on and women are wandering in with coffee cups in hand, terry robes and fluffy big slippers. Joy to the world!!!  The decibels are getting higher in excitement, Christmas music is on the radio and there is already talk about who’s making the gravy for dinner! When’s Linda getting here?? We want to open the presents!!!

At 8:00 a.m. Linda arrives as she does every Christmas morning with her Santa hat and little dog in his Santa suit. She takes her place, brings the camera out and it’s bedlam!!! Paper everywhere 2 feet deep. Kids playing with their new toys and women ahhing and oooing over each other’s new treasures. The laughter can be heard out on the street. How sweet it is to Linda’s ears, and how her heart swells at the love and warmth in these old walls! It’s all been worth it again; another year of Miracles, another year of being Blessed to be part of this “little house that could”. Just a quick closing of the eyes to say a prayer for those who didn’t make it, and those still out there, and then out the door as quick as she came. Bye Linda!!! Enjoy your family!!!

After a bit of an anti climax, things begin to pick up again as preparation for the dinner begins. The women work in harmony stuffing the turkey and preparing the meal. Bless the Firemen’s Union for supplying the funds for this bounty today! The smells begin to waft through the house as chores are completed and the house is readied for guests.

There are 27 including the kids, and the tables are lined up through the dining and living room area. The gravy is passed and the cranberries look so festive! Family and friends look at their brand new loved ones with amazement. How could she be so beautiful so soon? Her hair is so shiny, her eyes sparkle! Not the same person they helped up the stairs. They look like angels and warriors all wrapped into one!

The dishes are piled high and it’s time to see the family off. A tear or two and lots of hugs and once again the house settles into the dull roar of 15 tired women.

A new experience a new reality created, one of gratitude, love and community. No longer marginalized, but empowered and out to save the rest of the world in their new found compassion and empathy. Seeing life through a new pair of glasses, the ghost of Christmas past floats into the ether like smoke and is gone…forever.

And To All A Good Night

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