I see dead people.

Okay, I totally don’t see dead people. But I often feel like people from my past — people that are no longer on this Earth — are trying to tell me something.

Recently, it’s been my dad. Sure, there are a million reasons to think about him in December. My parent’s anniversary, his birthday, Christmas, the fact that he passed away on New Year’s Day eleven years ago.

But it’s not like I think about him in passing. He is on my brain all the time lately. I cannot get him out of my head.

So, I thought he may want me to share this story. Humor me for a second.

Nearly eight Christmases ago, I went over the top. I baked a gazillion cookies, bought every one too many presents and planned an extravagant holiday meal. We were hosting my in-laws and my sister-in-law and her new boyfriend at our new home, and my inner Martha Stewart was coming out like a scene out of the movie Aliens.

Well, fate had a different idea. My three toddler daughters brought home the stomach flu as a gift from their preschool. Then I got it. Then we took every one else down with us. My house smelled like a horror movie with sick oozing out of its walls. No one could eat the expensive roast I bought or the trifle I painstakingly made. We couldn’t even eat the fancy crackers I purchased.

The day after Christmas — while most of my guests were still attempting to fight off this bug — I walked down the stairs early in the morning determined to enjoy what little we had left of this holiday. That’s when I saw our Christmas tree on its side lying in the middle of our floor like a wounded soldier. I rushed over to check it and the first thing I saw was a shattered University of Florida ornament that my dad gave me in college.

As my husband and I lifted the tree, we saw the second casualty. A cheesy “Our First Christmas” Hallmark ornament split in half. It wouldn’t have been so upsetting, except it was also from my dad, one of the first gifts my husband and I received after our marriage.

I was fit to be tied. Devastated that the only two ornaments lost were from my dad. The Karma Gods had spoken and my perfect Christmas was ruined. I was done with the holidays.

I decided I had enough and in tears, started putting away ornaments. By 4 p.m. every shred of Christmas was gone inside our house. As I trudged up to the attic for what seemed like the hundredth time, I threw a very old suitcase to the side. It was from my mom’s old house, and I made a mental note to get rid of it.

Just as I turned to stack another box, a piece of plastic caught my eye in the dimly lit room. That’s when I saw it.

I picked up a small rectangular luggage tag with a New York City address on it from the defunct Eastern Airlines. I held my breath when I saw it was my dad’s suitcase from about thirty years ago.

I was dumbfounded. We moved that luggage so many times. Four different houses and many different rooms. It has been thrown around and used and never once did we come across that imprinted piece of plastic.

When I brought it to show my husband, he suggested I use it as a Christmas tree ornament, to replace the ones we lost. It turned the entire experience around for me and the holiday was no longer tainted, but a great story.

Unfortunately, I never remembered where I put that tag. I’ve looked and looked, but we have again since moved and I thought all was lost.

Until last week when I cleaned out a cupboard of my dining room hutch. In between a stack of cocktail napkins and fancy toothpicks I found my dad’s luggage tag, again.

As I hung it up on my tree I felt a weight lifted off my chest. Yet again, I forgot the reason for the season. I have been letting all my responsibilities, my self-imposed shackles of stress, get in the way of what is really important about the holidays. I didn’t remember that my family already has everything we need to have a perfect Christmas without ever opening one gift.

And I have this luggage tag, which travelled all across the globe with my father. The perfect reminder of my dad telling me from wherever he is to enjoy Christmas.

In this crazy world, may we all find a hidden treasure to enjoy the season just a little bit more this year.

All I ask is to make sure you look.

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