I’ll get to the title in just a minute.  Suffice it to say, it came from the CD and CM (College Dad and College Mom, for those of you who haven’t been around long enough to know the term) and therefore has a story to go with it.

But first, before the story, an explanation!  I love, love, love Thanksgiving.  But the holiday that comes after it, Santa Lucia Day, is also a family and personal favorite.  My father lived in Sweden for two years on a mission for the LDS church, and this is one of the traditions that impressed itself on him strongly during his time there.  It is a particularly special day for me.  I took finals early in order to get home on time to celebrate this wonderful holiday with my family–it means that much to me. Fact #17: Santa Lucia is THE family holiday for me.

I know, I know, I said Thanksgiving was the holiday I most associate with love, family, and renewal.  That’s true.  But it’s more of an inward thing for me.  The time to check up on my relationships with myself, others, family, and my health.  Santa Lucia is my outward family holiday.  I hate spending Thanksgiving alone, oh so much.  But I have yet to spend a Santa Lucia day alone and I fully intend to keep it that way.  There’s something about the day that demands time spent with family.  It’s a holiday about light in darkness and that’s something–despite our many trials–my family has always managed to maintain.

I also loved, loved, loved the Thanks to Thanksgiving blog series.  Since this time of year is so full of holidays, I thought I would continue by doing a Santa Lucia Day series (Santa Lucia’s Light), a Christmas series (Room for Christmas), and a New Year’s series that ends on New Year’s Day (Ring in the New).  I don’t know that I’ll do this every year, but the goal is to get to the end of the year with daily posts.

Today’s light is the light within.  That little tiny spark that makes you wonderful and unique and TOTALLY peculiar.  And with it comes the story behind the title. When I think of this light, I come back to an essay I wrote in college.  It was a response essay for a theatre class that my CD taught.  It was about a different kind of light, the light of creativity and how that light is based in two parts: terror and courage.  It was in response to this quote by the amazing Anne Bogart: “The vitality, or energy, in any given work is a reflection of the artist’s courageousness in the light of her own terror.”  My essay is best summed in the final paragraph:

Energy and/or vitality in a play is essential.  There is no way to engage in an audience in a play if the actor and director have no personal stake in it, which does take no small amount of risk on their parts.  My greatest and most personal risks often mean my biggest, most alive triumphs.  Anne Bogart says this kind of energy is a reflection of an artist’s courageousness, but every reflection needs light to exist.  A mirror is a useless thing without light.  It is the light of our own terror that illuminates the reflection of our own courage.

I cannot lie: I was worried when I turned in this essay.  The writing was good, but I was writing for a professor that was a friend.  I was worried that somehow me in person would set a standard that would not be reflected on the page.  That the light within would not, somehow, make it into the essay.  And I so wanted to make my professor, my college dad, proud.  I knew I couldn’t do that without bringing my light to the class.

Imagine my surprise when the CM stopped me the next day and calmly informed me, “My husband and I have decided you are a mutant.”

WHAT?!?!?

Apparently, I had NOT let down my CD.  I had, far beyond any expectations I had in turning in the essay, surprised him.  So much so, that he came out to my CM after reading through the paper and threw his hands in the air.*  Then, without any further explanation than this was a paper Joie had written for him, he proceeded to retrieve the essay and read it to his wife.  I do not know, to this day, how my writing provoked such a response.  I do know that it carried the part of me that was wonderful, unique, and TOTALLY peculiar.  And that that part of me, coupled with the paper, lead my college parents to decide that I was a mutant.

I gotta say, I love that nickname.  It may be the strangest expression of the light within, but it makes my heart sing when my CM or CD call me that.  It’s not just recognition of the inner light I have, it’s also encouragement.  It’s encouragement to be ME and the knowledge that I will be accepted–faults and failures, weirds and wonderfuls, too.

The light within is far too precious to throw away, and my CM and CD knew that.  Somehow, too, they knew there would be days I would be on the verge of throwing it away.  And on those days, then and still so many years later, I remember: I am their mutant.  I am, indeed, always a mutant.  And that’s SUCH a good thing.

CM, CD–I love you.  Thanks for the perfect nickname.

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*Note: I did not witness this.  This is the story my CM told me, in explanation of the mutant-dubbing.  I could be remembering it wrong.  I could have heard it wrong.  But, I will admit, it seems characteristic of both my college parents.  I can totally see this scene in my head.

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