This Christmas feels different than others for a number of reasons. Mr. 761 is still in Kandahar (his third year missing the holidays here with us) and Eldest Daughter 761 is away until the end of the month. It lacks some of the sparkle of earlier years when the kids were young and their delight was so, well, delightful.
I’ve been using that old excuse of “a tree fell on my house” to explain away the lack of decorations, presents mailed on time, my mood…, and although that’s a really good reason, it’s not the only reason. Even without the 50 foot tree on the house and all the folderol attached to that drama, I’m just not feeling it quite as much as other years.
I didn’t even get a tree this year! I have been known, other years, to have two trees, so that’s pretty significant. Okay, the whole idea of trees kind of annoyed me this year…. one of them FELL on my house after all. Also, there’s no snow, the grass is still green, and I hated the idea of dragging a soggy-from-the-rain tree into the house, getting the tree stand that never quite does the job, doing the lights (Mr. 761’s bailiwick)….
BUT. Younger Daughter 761 is here, and is hugely delightful, and we have a new member of our family, Exchange Student 761, from Korea. It’s a bit bittersweet for me, I think, that this will be Erica’s last Christmas living at home. Certainly she’ll come home to visit, but this is her last year living here. I miss her already. Sigh.
Much to Exchange Student 761’s confusion, we watched Holiday Inn last night. We can recite most of the lines, know all the songs, and always chuckle when the butler says “I don’t know which way is Connect-i-cut!” I adore it when Bing says to a very hung over Fred Astaire, as he pours coffee “have a slug from the mug, brother”. Such a hipster!
It’s hopelessly dated and not even that great a movie (I have some trouble thinking of Bing as a romantic lead in this movie and the blackface, it is to cringe), but it’s a tradition for us. It made me happy to cuddle with my puppies and daughters in a darkened room and watch the schmaltz.
As the afternoon of Christmas Eve approaches, it has finally occurred to me that it is within my power to enjoy this Christmas, to maybe create some of that sparkle and delight that just didn’t seem to happen on its own this year. Of course we miss Mr. 761, and we miss Eldest Daughter too. But there are still warm traditions to fall back on (tree or no) and we’re making the best of an out-of-the-ordinary situation. I’m breathing in the scent of the mulled cider I started an while ago — oranges, apples, allspice, cloves and cinnamon and someone is singing O Holy Night on the radio (I love that song!). Can’t get much better than that.
As I sit here, writing this and looking out at the slightly-denuded-of-trees, mud-and-green landscape, I realize with pleasure that there is sunshine today. It might not look like “Christmas” but that sun is a very welcome addition to the day. My study is just the way I like it — full of cats and dogs and sunlight dappling. My house is warm and (sort of) air-tight, nobody was hurt in the aforementioned tree debacle and my husband is safe where he is, though not as safe as I’d like (meaning: here, with me, in my study). My children are safe and sound and very much loved. Our friends and family, so dear to us, are also all safe and sound.
We have a lot to be thankful for this year and as I write I feel a bit sheepish for starting this post off feeling a bit well, sorry for myself. We don’t have a full house this year, but there is a peace that I’m enjoying. All of those frenetic Christmases when the kids were little? This is the peace I longed for then.
I’m going to spend the afternoon drinking cider and reading books. And preparing food for tonight and tomorrow morning. Tonight we’ll have a delicious dinner, watch a movie together, and then repair to our private spaces to wrap some presents. Tomorrow, I know I’ll get up too early, but that’s okay. I’m looking forward to sitting in the quiet and puttering. Tomorrow afternoon we’ll go have dinner at the chaotic, loving and very warm house of our friends — dinner for 10 or 12, I think, with a baby, neighbors, family and a very nice cat. It will be lovely.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas from Box 761.