It was early in the morning, three days before Christmas. I was in bed with my eyes closed, struggling to decide if my latest dream was less or more reality. I had retired to bed late the previous night, having stayed up to wrap gifts and watch It’s a Wonderful Life all by my lonesome while the rest of the house snored peacefully in the background. I had wept emotionally over George’s realization that the world was a better place with him alive. Then I’d turned off the TV and gone to bed.
Years ago when my children were young, viewing this holiday classic had been an annual tradition. But ever since my four darlings had entered puberty, they’d unanimously agreed it was more torture than treat to watch a black-and-white rerun of some crazy, old, dead guy……no matter how many tears it cost their mother. My husband had sided with the majority—a little too eagerly—so I now upheld the holiday ritual alone.
Still in bed, I opened my eyes and stared up at a ceiling that resembled muddy tapioca. The grogginess had lifted enough for me to realize I’d been dreaming, but the impact I felt from those realistic visions bothered me. Sometime in the night I’d assimilated George Baily’s experience into my subconscious, and I’d become a ghost in my own home, invisible to my husband and four children. I was painfully aware of them but unable to interact with anyone. Though I stood directly in their path, they were entirely oblivious of me.
The worst part wasn’t my sudden ghostliness. Nor was it the fact that I couldn’t communicate with the ones I loved. What weighed heavy on my heart in the dream—and now while awake—was the fact that my family didn’t appear the least bit troubled by my absence. No one had stopped for even a second to question where I was, to call out my name or expend the slightest amount of effort searching the house for me. They simply went on with their daily routines, engrossed in whatever selfish activities each had planned for the day.
No one missed me. It was disheartening.
The fact that my entire family had opted out of movie night the evening prior only made my condition graver. I may as well have been a real ghost for as little as I was wanted. In truth, every other soul in the house was capable of taking care of him or herself; my family could go right on functioning without me.
My goal as a parent had always been to teach each child to be self-sufficient and independent; so I had succeeded. That was good! But I felt miserable nonetheless.
Pulling the covers over my head, I curled up into a ball and fell back asleep, depressed and envious of the fact that Bedford Falls had fallen apart without George Baily.
I was jolted awake—startled upright. A glance at the clock showed I’d overslept by a couple hours. Five unsmiling faces surrounded my bed, all focused on me. I realized it was my youngest daughter squawking, “Moth—er!” that had awakened me. The silence accompanying four tight stares only lasted long enough for me to wipe at the mascara I imagined was smeared beneath my eyes.
“What are you all…?” I started, only to be drowned out by sibling teens talking at once.
“Mother, I need a ride to Joslin’s house—stupid ‘Big Foot’ won’t take me.”
“Because I can’t, Bratilda. I told you, I’m scheduled to work…”
“So drop me off first….Mother, tell him!”
“Mom, I’m short on cash, and I need gas money…”
“No, no, no way! He hasn’t done one chore around here; I’ve been doing everything!”
“Forget them—I really need some money, Mom. We’re Christmas shopping at the mall…”
“Hey, Ma, did you get my red sweater washed? You said you’d have it ready for my concert tonight…”
“Mom, please tell me you are not going to make me go to his dork concert tonight! I have that Christmas cookie exchange—you said you’d help me make sugar cookies today…”
Just then, my husband squeezed his head in. “Hunny? Have you seen my car keys anywhere?”
If in reality I were to wake up and find myself a ghost, this beautiful family of mine would probably find a way to function. But my dream had been wrong. My family needed me, even if I was slightly taken for granted. The truth felt radiant and clear—Bedford Falls was in chaos. Good old George Bailey’s wonderful life had nothing on mine.
This story is from "Making Wishes: Quotes, Thoughts, & a Little Poetry for Every Day of the Year".