By Christmastime a year later I had many friends, my little antique shop here at the house, and had decided to start what would become an annual event for the next 7 years, my 'Colonial Christmas' Open House. That day each year became 'my Christmas', as I was frequently alone on the actual holiday itself. It seems Christmas is a family day, and I was on my own in rural New Hampshire. It was not always sad. My little dog Phoebe and I celebrated with a little gift to myself and one for her, and a special homemade dinner that I shared a bit of with her as well. If I were not with friends, Phoebe and I would snuggle up near the fire and watch those cheesy Christmas movies you always like to see over and over again, because even if you are feeling low somehow they are a glimmer of hope that there really are miracles and happy times ahead.
That year of the first Christmas Open House for my shop, I got to thinking about kids and their letters to santa. I was feeling a bit lonely and times were very hard indeed for a single woman with little money and minimal construction skills, trying to restore an old house alone. I, like a kid peering into a candy store window wished for the things I saw around me, especially at this time. No, not really all the gifts and fancy things money could buy, but other things that sometimes you can't afford either, when there is only you fighting to survive and build a new life. They are the things that lots of us take for granted, and all of us covet far more than material things. So I had this idea. I would make a Christmas wish list. Instead of paper, I would use stones. Yes, stones---but not just any stones. A tiny brook runs down the hill and alongside my house. One chilly day I bundled up, put on my 'wellies', and waded into the stream searching for appropriate stones. I fished a number of suitable, smooth rocks of New Hampshire granite out of the water and threw them onto the bank. It seemed fitting that I write my holiday wishes on rocks from my own little brook.
I took a white paint pen, and sat at the table by the window looking out at the snow covered hill and the little stream and waterfall, my rocks spread out in front of me on newspaper. I thought about all the things that I truly cared about and wished for, not only for myself, but for all the friends, and strangers, and soon-to-be-friends that would shortly be at my door for my very first 'Colonial Christmas Open House' only days away.
The wishes came to me, tumbling together like the rocks in the brook. 'A pet to love you', 'friendship', 'dancing', 'a little night music', 'a happy little home', 'someone to love you', 'laugh a lot', 'wake up smiling', and many more. That year, I put moss all around the base of the Christmas tree and carefully placed my stones on it, surrounding the entire tree. People at the open house wanted to buy my wishing stones! I explained that they were not for sale, but that they should perhaps use my idea as an inspiration and find something that meant a lot to them, and write their OWN heart's desires on it.
That was now 11 years ago. I still have each and every stone. Every year I would carry them down from the attic at Christmas. They were a comfort in sad, broke, lonely and difficult times.
There are still sad times and hardships. I guess everyone of us needs the comfort and remembrance and HOPE of something like my Christmas stones. This year, my wishes-on-stones are nestled outside on the porch by the woodpile, silently greeting any guest who may arrive. All I have to give, and the best that I can offer to those friends and loved ones are the heartfelt wishes I wrote on my river rocks long years ago.