The Christmas season of 2002 I lived in a very large, very old, creaky, drafty house with four other college girls.
The house was in appalling physical condition. When you walked upstairs you felt a little dizzy as the whole upstairs was shifted ever so slightly at an angle. A very narrow stair case led down to a dark and dank basement. Unless I had laundry that needed to be done, I rarely went down there out of pure unadulterated fear. There was a large dirt-filled recess at one end that would have been the perfect place to stash bodies.
As if that wasn't enough to spook a bunch of single girls, a large attic-like room full of sticky cobwebs, piles of ancient insulation, and inky-black mysterious space lurked strangely in the middle of the house.
Whatever the house lacked in charm, warmth, and safety, I found in my roommates. I had lived with other roommates in other apartments and houses before, but these four girls became my sisters. We just clicked. We called our strange twisted abode the House of Dreams. We stayed up way too late most nights talking about anything and everything, simply enjoying each others' kindred spirits.
That Christmas in the House of Dreams we decided to swap names for a roommate gift exchange. Chelsea had picked my name and I believe I had hers in return. Sadly, I can't for the life of me remember what I gave her that Christmas, but I will NEVER forget what she gave me.
Although we were a bunch of single college students, we had pooled our money to buy a real Christmas tree for our living room. The five of us gathered near the glow of its twinkling lights on the predetermined night before the Christmas holiday to exchange our gifts.
My gift was the last to be given. Chelsea handed me a stack of papers and envelopes, varying in size and shape and color, carefully tied with a ribbon.
As I untied the ribbon and began to investigate my lapful of envelopes, I realized these were letters written by dozens of people for...me.
I was stunned.
How had she done this without me knowing? How had she managed to get so many people from so many different areas of my life (family, church, school, work, high school, etc.) to cooperate with something like this?
And how had she known this is exactly what my heart and soul needed at that time? She could have spent hundreds of dollars on a gift for me and it would not have meant nearly as much as this simple stack of letters did.
If you have read my blog for long, you already know I tend to be a bit of a weepy person, but I was out-right sobbing as I began to silently read some of the letters. They were brimming full of love and inspiration and friendship and encouragement.
I tried to read a few quickly, not wanting to hold up our little roommate Christmas celebration and hoping to absorb the rest in private later, but was quickly encouraged to read my letters out loud. As I did, immense love filled the room and each of my dear sister-roommates became emotional as well. We were up for hours that night reading letters and expressing gratitude for the goodness in our lives.
That night will always be one of my most magical and treasured Christmas memories. It was the pinnacle of my living experience in that creepy old house with those wonderful women.
I still keep my stack of letters tucked away in a box and every couple of years I start reading them again letting the love and the memories of The House of Dreams wash over me again.