My lights go up today, the first of December, a day the excitement of the season edges into the frame.
The rows of little bulbs shine through the long dark weeks of winter, serving up a timely reminder to come up with a Christmas menu that doesn’t end with figgy pudding. It did, for some years, including one ending with burnt hot mitts and hands as the flaming wonder was carried to the table.
Inside, there will be light too, a candle lit for a beloved niece Alexandra, nicknamed Sunshine as a toddler by her grandmother. She and her sister Megan, taught me to be a mom, coming as they did before the birth of my own daughters.
Alexandra is on my mind today, as are all those scientists like her, who toil in the health field, working in the fight against HIV. World Aids Day, observed annually on December 1st, is just one day of focused global attention. Here in Canada, a person is infected with HIV every three hours. (Nine things you should know about HIV in Canada) For Alexandra, an HIV prevention and surveillance scientist for Public Health England, focusing on this disease is an everyday concern and work mission. Forthright and fearless, this young niece of mine likes to dream big.
She’ll hit you up first with a smile, disarming in its sheer open-hearted dazzle, and follow it up with an impassioned speech or story. Quick with a laugh, even at her own expense, Alexandra isn’t afraid to touch.
Her hugs reach right around.
When my kids were little, we lit up Advent candles, one for each Sunday leading up to Christmas. Counting down might also bring a chocolate or two, if somebody remembered to make their bed.
If Advent is about anticipation, this year, I will be counting down the days until the safe return across the pond of my beautiful niece, to join our family Christmas circus, and bring light and laughter to our table.
We need your stories, Alexandra. Forget the charms of London. We’ve got (likely) snowflakes as big as your heart.