Wednesday, December 20, 2017

the week before Christmas

I vote for moving Christmas to the end of January.

I have good arguments for it. If we accept the fact that Jesus was not really born on December 25th (and we should: no shepherd worth his flock would be out in the fields in December weather in Bethlehem) then we are free to set a date of our choosing. So I vote for the end of January.

The economic arguments are stacked in favor of this. Online shopping gets a full four more weeks of keyboard clicking, in a month where, at least in the northern hemisphere, you do not want to be outside. An extended shopping period! A boon, no? (Let's ignore the credit card debt that would follow. The extended shopping period would boost the economy, create jobs, raise wages. Ergo: eventually credit card debt would go away. If I say it often enough, it will be true.)

But I'm not pushing economics. I'm pushing sanity. The pre-Christmas period is now too short. Whether you cook, bake, sing, do crafts, plays, dances associated with the holidays -- there's too little time for even a fraction of it. And then boom! December 26 comes and it's all over and what you have before you is a three month spell of winter. (If Christmas came on January 25th, you'd have short February and then voila! Spring! Well, just around the corner.)

I write this because I was thinking this morning how quickly these weeks have gone by. And how the weekend is going to bring family members together and that's great, but there are not enough hours in the day to do all that you'd love to do with said family members. (My second proposal would be to give everyone a week off following January 25, to indulge us in family time, friend time, free time.)

Of course, some would object. Christmas, you'll argue, is for Christians who comprise just 31% of the world's population. I'm amenable to changing the name of the holiday to embrace all the peoples of the world. We could just borrow from the French and call it Noel, which actually is on loan from the Latin world natalis -- meaning "of birth." A celebration of birth. How lovely is that!

For now, we have what we have: December 24th and 25th. They come in just four days. That'a an insanely short period of time!

Time... Holiday time... Christmas time... Why do I need time? My dinner menu lists were made long ago, as were the grocery lists. The brioche has been ordered (Madame at the bakery asks over the phone -- Is that you Nina? You want us to bake you a brioche? Yes please... I'll bake my own another time...). The presents are wrapped, ribboned, tagged. Cards mailed, house cleaned.

Time... Retired as I am, I especially love these days before the holiday. To make that steamy frothy cup of cafe creme and munch on a delicious biscotti send to us for Christmas... To finish reading my book so that I can get to the one I meant for this week -- a holiday story from a beloved mystery series. To listen to more music, to stare at the magnificence of the petite tree. To spend even more hours with my daughters. To watch treasured Christmas films together and read out loud from their own Christmas memory books, written some 25 or 30 years ago. Time to take in how beautiful the farmhouse looks, especially with the lights outside and one single delicious candle burning inside. Time for all that.

For now, breakfast. In the sun room, though without sunshine.

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Afternoon: I pick up Snowdrop.

On my way to her school, I stop for my CSA two pound bag of winter spinach. This takes me by the lesser lake. It strikes me how dramatically everything changes in a place that lives by four seasons. Snowdrop and I would hunt for shade here in the summer months. Now, one day short of winter, there's a thick layer of ice on the lake...

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It's cold today. Our high yesterday was 45F (7C). Today the high will be 25F (-4C). The little girl resists wearing any coat or jacket in the car, but yesterday I scored a success by getting her into something that I (deliberately misleadingly) called a hoodie. I bring it with me to school and offer it to her. She accepts it. Phew! It really feels cold today.

And yet, when we leave the car to go to the farmhouse (you gotta walk a bit), she feels the tug of the great outdoors.

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I nudge her inside. She's not really dressed for this. But as we go in, she asks to put on her "farmhouse pink mitts" and her "farmhouse cap" and her "farmhouse boots" and out she goes again! Okay, this will surely be short lived. It really is cold!

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She is intoxicated with the pleasure of being outside.  Let me bring my babies out for a walk! 

We do that.

Her laughter now is so contagious that we surely must look foolish as we romp around the front yard. Two laughing hyenas. Pretending to be airplanes.

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We collect spent flowers, twigs and cones for a picnic with her babes.

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And now she wants to bring it all inside. All fine, except that I watch my carefully cleaned for the holidays floors take on the litter of dried debris. But who would mind? Snowdrop, despite a napless day, has been utterly joyous.

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Time to take things down a notch. We play inside.

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For Snowdrop, Christmas is still made up of strung together stories, books and memories. She looks at my potted Norfolk Island Pine and asks -- is this your Christmas tree?  Well she might wonder. Last year and the year before, I used it as such. Does she remember?

Evening. The feeling of too little time eases a bit. Maybe we're too hell bent on wanting more of what we already have. Time. I remember Christmas in the years when I had two little ones in tow. I was a law student. Final exams took up the first two weeks of December. I had four meals to plan and execute (eve dinner, day breakfast, day lunch, day dinner). Tree, purchase, trimming, house decorating, school events, teacher presents, in-law presents, and of course, daughter presents! Purchased after endless trips to stores (can you imagine -- no online shopping!).

Thirty years from now, our grandkids will tell a smarter, more capable Siri to do it all and then they'll still bemoan how there is just not enough time. Perhaps those words -- not enough time -- are just a short cut for admitting that things are going well and life can be so good and can we just continue like this for a while, a long while longer?