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The Christmas Eve visit from Eunice, the hospice chaplain, left a welcome afterburn. Her Carolinian drawl flavored the recitation of the whimsical poem, “King John’s Christmas” by A.A. Milne, found in his collection, Now We Are Six. (1927). The surprise gift of this slim worn volume enhanced the telling.

Alone later with the book, I mulled over King John’s isolation, loneliness, and overwhelment, exacerbated by the coming of Christmas. Because his subjects disliked him, he sent his own Christmas cards and enjoyed them upon his mantel; then, hitched his brown stocking to it hoping for gifts that never filled it.

Christmas Eve, he climbed to his chimney and posted a long list to Father Christmas with his varied wants, including a big, red, india-rubber ball.

Yet, Christmas morning, his stocking was still empty. He groused:  

And, oh! if Father Christmas had loved me at all,
He would have brought a big, red india-rubber ball!”

King John stood by the window,
And frowned to see below
The happy bands of boys and girls
All playing in the snow.
A while he stood there watching,
And envying them all …
When through the window big and red
There hurtled by his royal head,
And bounced and fell upon the bed,
An india-rubber ball!

King John’s critical gift did come, after all, not the crackers, candy, chocolates, oranges, nut, and pocketknife of his wants. Play had been long absent in his life, jammed with kingly duties. He only had to follow the play in the ball to enter life.

In my present circumstances, I yearn for the big, red india-rubber ball. It will come in time.

The image of a box of toys impressed me while listening to Claude Debussy’s ballet score (1913) of the same name. Conceived of seven parts, its playfulness conjured up toy soldiers, baby dolls, stuffed animals, tops, hoops, balls, coloring books and crayons, and so much more. Even recalled the pine-walled-playroom our dad had built in the basement, our special place apart from the everydayness with its predictable routine.

However, a deeper look at the box of toys suggests the imagination as a container of sorts, filled with riches that nourish spirit in bleak times, such as our own. Besides memory’s traces of the beautiful, of intimate prayer moments, other forms of deep play, however construed, have ballooned my sails, empowering the exploration of multiple unknowns around me.  

One of these were walks, outdoors in all seasons: they used to imprint colors upon my psyche—even the subtle browns of November, the gray-browns of December: all strikingly beautiful in their dying.

And recourse to YouTube still animates ancient sacred sites that I visited in Malta, Egypt, Greece, Italy, France, England, and Ireland—all Jungian sponsored tours. Such experiences afforded me windows into psyches steeped in other forms of worship, its remnants housed in storm-eroded temples and nearby museums that suggested vibrant living at one time.

I still wonder about these ancient people and their smiles, as evidenced in Bes, the carved Egyptian god of laughter and fertility, seen at the Temple of Isis at Agilkia.

But getting back to the box of toys and its contents, whatever play inspirits your psyche, go for it. Let it tingle your imagination and soften your smile.

One hour after retiring, I awoke with this dream:

It is the beginning of summer. I join a large mixed group of college students on an outdoor stage in the park. We’ve been invited to rehearse a musical, to be presented before returning to our classes. Weeks pass. Although everyone works to the max, enthusiasm buoys our spirits as we enflesh the musical. The wardrobe mistress creates stunning outfits that enhance our youthfulness. My reflection in the long mirror astonishes me: brunette, tall, willowy, perfectly proportioned: as I dance, my white fitted coat flares open revealing a pink silk dress.

In my psyche, all is well.

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