I entered the house. It was dark inside, so it took a moment for my eyes to adjust after being outside in the bright sunshine. "Just a minute," Julia said. She reached into the corner and dragged a raggedy extension cord over to the socket and plugged it in.
Two little plastic Christmas trees came to life!
The trees framed the corner of the room which held a leveled pile of sand and a multitude of small treasures. Each item was carefully placed to face the corner, and in the corner there was a well-loved ceramic Baby Jesus. Julia had spent a long time assembling her Christmas corner.
"These are my son's baby shoes. We brought this pine cone back from a trip to the mountains. My boys played with these cars when they were little. I have had this figure since I was a little girl." Julia carefully picked up treasure after treasure, grateful for the memory it brought to mind, joyful to share the memory and her stories with a friend.
Donkeys and horses made from clay. Cats and cows and crocodiles made of plastic. Mary, Joseph, Shepherds and Kings of all shapes and sizes. All positioned carefully in the sand, all with faces toward the corner adoring Baby Jesus, all surrounded by lights and sparkles.
Every year, I assemble a Christmas corner to honor the birth of Jesus and the gift of Julia's friendship. I try to remember Julia's stories, and the stories that accompany the few Salvadoran treasures I place beneath the tree. The cup from Julia's cupboard, made by her grandpa. The stuffed pig from Christina. The angel from our sister community's anniversary party. The church made by Papa Santiago. A photo from the first time we said good-bye. It's a lesson in humility. Julia's life treasures fit under two small trees and mine do not, but the love and friendship we share is bigger than any corner or any house can hold. Merry Christmas, Julia!