George and I have a routine we follow every time we drive up to Connecticut or Boston. We stop at the Dunkin’ Donuts near our house and fill our thermoses with coffee before we drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. Saturday, at the start of our trip, George threw in the bonus of a jelly donut for me. Imagine my delight when I found it was in the shape of a star!
Being a writer, I immediately found my mind rummaging around for all my associations with stars. I think a star was the first cool thing I learned to draw. I am so pathetic an artist that once I handed a blank piece of paper to my art teacher in junior high and told her it was a snowstorm. I got a zero. But a star? Ah, I could draw beautiful stars that no one could find fault with.
Of course the star plays a central role in Christmas because of the star of Bethlehem that is believed to have shown over the stable where the Christ Child lay. So it isn’t a surprise that many Christmas cookies are in the shape of a star, just as my donut was. I remember cutting out ginger stars with my mother for Christmas every year. The star was not the most significant aspect of that memory. It was making Christmas cookies with my mother, but the star is a hook I can hang that memory on.
My freshman year in college, one of my dearest friends was diagnosed with leukemia. I wrote to her nearly every day that year to keep her spirits up, though Janet was the one who was giving comfort to all her friends, such was the mettle of this amazing young woman. The summer after my freshman year, after my family had just returned from two weeks of vacation, I told my mother that I was going to Janet’s house to check in on her. Before I left the house, the phone rang. I remember so clearly, as if it had just happened, seeing my mother at the ironing board watching me take the phone call, watching me as my shoulders sagged and then shook, feeling her arms around me, and hearing her voice saying, “There will be another star in heaven tonight.”
The older I get, the more stars I see with names on them, and one day I will have a star, too. I suppose we have a fascination with stars because they are mysterious and comforting at the same time. On the blackest of nights, the stars shine brightest, not leaving us in the dark. I think our faith can be like that, a star for the soul.