Friday, December 28, 2012
For the first time since we met, fourteen years ago, Alexi had to work Christmas Eve and Christmas, reading Xrays, MRIs, and all manner of radiological studies for those in need of them at the hospital where he works. It didn’t snow. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. I watched the forecast hawkishly for days, fielding repeated questions about the potential for a white Christmas. Aside from these unavoidable circumstances, the past week was everything we could have hoped for.
The official start to our holiday was last Friday, the winter solstice. School was only in session until noon, and then the two week break began. I had ambitions for those last few hours to myself: exercise, vacuuming; trips to the drugstore, pet store, post office. I got about half of it done. A friend of Cal’s came home with us for the afternoon. They played with Legos and waged Nerf gun wars while I made caramel corn to give out to neighbors, and addressed the last of the holiday cards. In the deep blue of nearing darkness, Cal’s friend went home, and the boys and I got on our way to Abbott’s hockey practice. We detoured to do the errands I didn’t get to that morning. We bought a few necessities at the drugstore as well as stamps, avoiding a worse line at the post office. We walked with our cards and the stamps toward the post office, and in the dim light we heard, then saw, a group of geese as they rose to the sky and assumed their formation. We stood watching them until they had flown out of sight. The three of us sat on a bench outside the post office as we prepared the cards for mailing. They seemed to thrill at the task. Could it be I’ve never let them stamp anything?
Christmas Eve, I sat vigil at bedsides, first the younger, then the older, until the breathing had deepened and steadied, and any overheard rustling or activitiy on the part of the parents would be woven into dreams. As we filled stockings and figured out the wording of a note from Santa and the disguising of the handwriting, I fretted about how tired I was likely to be the next day. The kitchen lights of the neighbor across the street were still on as I switched off our bathroom light and padded, barefoot, to bed. It’s the same every year.
Christmas morning, we took turns addressing adult necessities - coffee, pictures and video for posterity - and sitting on the floor, an audience for what was being shared. I wonder how their memories will record our Christmases? My own from childhood are snapshots. The pink satin bow with the fabric rose wrapped around a package of mine one year, re-used on one of my gifts every year thereafter. The holly candy, the peanut patties my mom always made. The handmade dolls and stuffed animals from my grandmother Louise. My Santa mug.
After breakfast - Custard-Filled Corn Bread and bacon and Christmas pears and steamed milk with maple syrup - Alexi packed up for work. On his way out the door the phone rang; he exchanged greetings with my sister, then left. I listened to her describe the snow they received and their Christmas Eve service and the sleeping in they were able to do that morning, and it distracted me, eased me into the reality of his departure.
The boys and I stayed in our pyjamas. As the day wore on, I watched the Christmas procession of neighbors out walking in groups of two and four and five, sometimes with a pet, with their usual bearing of contentment and satiety. I prepared an elaborate meal that I would not have taken the time to make had guests or Alexi been present. The boys came and went like hummingbirds, seeking my company, showing me things, finding food, then disappearing again, just as quickly as they came. One of Abbott’s packages contained an itunes gift certificate; his first. We listened to songs and explored Pandora as I chopped and stirred and sauteed, and he thought about what he might want to buy. The gift card was burning a hole in his pocket. I told him about how I used to listen to Casey Kasem host American Top 40 every Saturday afternoon. Abbott reluctantly opened his gifts throughout the course of the day, stretching them out until the end; he hated to see it come to a close. Cal opened his immediately, relishing it all instantly, fully. When Alexi got home, we sat together and ate, as we had that morning, and were thankful.
I haven’t been in a rush to put away the holiday like I usually am. I’ve paused. Many of the gifts still lay piled under the tree in an orderly fashion, replicating their prior wrapped positions. Treats from our stockings neatly line the kitchen counters. The Christmas linens are still in use. We’ve had a good string of days.