At long last, Holly Hobbie smiles at us from the Christmas tree.
And from slightly lower down, so does her long-lasting head.
This may take a little explanation.
Long ago, like many a little girl, my wife Heather had a Holly Hobbie Christmas ornament, the big-bonneted pioneer girl of many a greeting card. This Holly was designed to hang from a tree branch with arms open wide, gazing benignly at passers-by.
It was much loved. And like many much-loved things, she got broken a bit too soon. One Christmas, the family unpacked its ornaments to find that 90% of Holly Hobbie was missing – everything except her well-known head.
With normal people, this would be the end.
My wife and her siblings are not normal people.
Holly Hobbie endured. In fact, Placing The Head of Holly Hobbie became a cherished Christmas tradition. With many giggles, The Head would come to rest on a suitably flat bit of pine, looking as though orcs had visited the American prairie and left behind a sign of their passage.
When Heather married me, The Head came with her. And from that day forward, our Christmas tree has been a Head above the rest.
Weird? Maybe. But in a time of year where we plant trees indoors and eat food out of our socks, I don’t think the rest of us are in any place to talk. That’s what traditions are: weird things you don’t do at any other time. I mean, ‘tis the season for a reindeer with an LED nose, for Pete’s sake.
But even so, Heather kept a watch. And with the rise of the internet – and just as importantly, the rise of 1980s nostalgia – her dream finally came true. She found a source, made the contact, cheered as the mail arrived.
Holly Hobbie had come home!
Triumphantly, Heather placed the full-bodied Holly in the tree. Just a step or two away from The Head of the old one, gazing up at her new sister.
After a moment, we both laughed.
“Kind of looks like she’s been left there as a warning to the newcomer, doesn’t it?” I said, to more helpless giggles.
A Christmas tradition would continue. Stronger and weirder than ever.
And with it grew just a bit of joy.
Joy’s kind of weird itself. It hides in odd places, lurks around strange corners. You can try to cultivate it for weeks with ribbons and music and Hallmark movies without success, and then, bang! Up it pops without warning.
Sometimes it’s the sudden connection that a tradition makes between past and present, briefly restoring something thought lost.
Sometimes it’s the out-of-place detail that makes us stop, think and wonder at the world around us, a star burning where it has no reason to be.
Frequently there is no obvious explanation. It pounces like a tiger, ambushing us on a deeper level than simple happiness. It’s a sudden rightness, or an excitement that won’t be held back, or a warmth that colors everything nearby.
It’s an inspiration. And like many inspiring things, you can’t really force it – but you can leave yourself open to it so that you don’t miss it when it comes.
Eyes open. Heart open. Seeing and experiencing and reaching to those nearby.
It might mean changing the usual or daring to be thought strange. That’s a risk. But it’s one worth taking to break beyond the expected and really live.
So be alert. Keep your head up.
Hey … it works for Holly Hobbie.