“I want someone to know I’m here.” That is the heartache expressed by the title character in the book Britt-Marie Was Here. This is another novel written by Fredrik Backman, which may be a poor choice as I’m still recovering from My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry and The Deal Of A Lifetime.
I read once that if you take LSD, you are never the same as you were before. If you were a 5, you’re not a 5 anymore. That’s how I feel about those books. Like I was cracked wide open and now I’m a permanently different Chad.
Anyway. It’s Christmas in 2020 and on the one hand, we desperately need the hope of Christmas and the birth. On the other, I can’t imagine the despair of another holiday in isolation. This season is usually among the most depressed, presumably because the cold gray short days spent alone against the backdrop of other families gathered around a warm fire. What if I don’t have a family? What if the family I do have is broken? What if there’s 1 less around that fire? What if I don’t have a home, much less a fire? It’s no wonder the depression we barely keep at bay all year gets amplified in November & December.
This Britt-Marie book is about a woman newly single, alone because the husband she has pretended was faithful has been publicly exposed as what she knew he was. She’s kind of awful, but as Backman slowly peels back curtain after curtain, she’s all of us. She wants to be seen, wants to matter to someone.
We’re a culture that largely walks with our heads down, on our way to the next thing, saying “How are you?” as a greeting, but not at all interested in the answer. Even without a global pandemic and quarantine, we had been increasingly disconnected for years. This leaves us like those copper pans where nothing sticks. And we call it survival.
But it’s not. It’s killing us. We’re invisible and we are not meant to be invisible. We are meant to be together, sharing the moments of our lives. We are meant to ask how you are and to wait for the honest answer. We are meant to cry together, to celebrate together.
As I read, the thing that kills me is that I know how many Britt-Marie’s must be in my town, neighborhood, on my street, invisible. And this is a fact that is simply unacceptable. My dream is that we are all seen, accepted. That we all belong. That we are all loved. That the reality of Christmas become a reality in practice, that it’s not just a story of fairy-tale hope we tell in churches on Christmas Eve.
I want someone to know we’re here.