Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Eve

Up early. Years ago, this was my busiest day of the year. That's no longer the case, but still, I get up early.


Our chickens are unpredictable. Sometimes they dilly when I open their coop. Today, they're hovering near the door, anxious to be out.


Maybe they sense that this truly is a rare event? It's above freezing for the third or fourth day in a row. They can scratch the farmette soil to their hearts content. And they do.

At the farmhouse, I do a thorough house cleaning. Windows wide open, dust cloth flying, vacuum hitting the darkest corners. The place shines, ready for a round of visitors (arriving tomorrow).

From the predawn hours, Isie boy has had visions of his own sugar plums: he is incessant, meowing loud and clear that he wants that same special can of cat food I'd opened yesterday, that very same one, his very favorite, perhaps his all time favorite! Kind of odd that it should be this, on Christmas Eve. (The can is of venison. I mean, really, Isie? Today?)

Ed and I have a much more prosaic breakfast. The usual, in fact.


We then play Santa. Well, Ed helps me, but I can't say that he'd like to associate himself with anything so spendy as gift giving. Still, he does help. We lug gifts to my daughter's house where they will be opened tomorrow. For now, they sit and wait. While their cats romp and explore as if they, too are touched in their soul by this holiday.


(Ed plays with Virgil, my daughter remains preoccupied with her own wrapping.)



More errands and quick trips to the store. And then Ed gives blood. They hooked him on the phone to come down, but it doesn't take much hooking because he is always giving blood. Me, I stopped when I turned anemic. I do not think I remain anemic but I haven't turned the corner from thinking that I am. So he's on his own.

At the farmhouse, we keep the sun room closed off because without sun, it only throws cold air back into the house. (You do know that we have not had sun light for a while?) Every time I open the door, the bells that I hung there, seasonally, just for the heck of it, ring very very loudly. I think it drives Ed nuts, but he doesn't complain. Even though I think he's looking forward to the quiet that will come on December 26th.


When the girls were little, I used to ring a big bell I had downstairs and do a little routine, pretending that I had heard Santa's sleigh. I don't think they ever believed it. Still, when I jingle any bell right about now, I feel very much as if I am right in the thick of my daughters' Christmas, circa 1990, when one would have been 9 and the other -- just approaching 6. At those ages, kids just bubble with the joyousness of the holiday. Their favorite two phrases on Christmas morning? I don't need any more presents because this one is the best gift ever! And before that: mom, hurry up with the photo, we want to come in! (I insisted on an annual photo of them approaching the tree in their p.j.s on Christmas morning.)

Since the lights on my Norfolk pine are of the low energy kind, I can keep them up round the clock. So different from the days when I insisted on restraint: too many hours of tree lights meant the tree would dry very very quickly. These days, there need be no restraint.


And now, the Eve itself. As in previous years, it is a calm evening for us. And food? Ed, who rarely has preferences in matters of custom and tradition, suggests that we do what his people are said to do on this day (and by "his people," I mean the New York Jewish community from which he emerged): go out for a Chinese dinner. We eat the combo special at Imperial Gardens East (where surely unlike in New York on this day, there are a number of people wearing Christmas sweaters). And the food is just okay.


But the evening is grand nonetheless.

My girls and I always used to say that the day before Christmas is the best ever because of all that still will follow. I'll sign onto that.

When I was very young, maybe around 8 years old, I looked for "Christmas spirit" in whatever place I could find it then. Comic books were a good source. In one, a young Dennis the Menace is looking for a tree to bring home. He comes across some scrawny looking ones sold by a pair of cowboys. I do not know why I will always remember this last image from that comic, but I do and it is as evocative to me as a choir singing the most beautiful carol. Dennis bargains for a tree and the cowboy lets him have it. In this untidy lot, the air is full of the impending holiday and the cowboy turns to his pals and reminds them -- it's Christmas Eve on the range boys, it's Christmas Eve on the range...