This was a hectic Christmas season, to be sure. Finals week dovetailed with the beginning of the Christmas rush at the store, and even when school was out, I simply switched over to working more hours at the store. On top of that, we had that stretch of bad weather. It seemed like when I had the time to shop, the weather was so awful that I simply couldn't bring myself to head out. I began to fret. As usual Tim didn't get it. After a night at work, I came home and looked at the weather forecast on the computer. I was dismayed to see another snowstorm headed our way. "Gees, Tim, I know it sounds crazy, but maybe we'd better head out right now, and try to get some Christmas shopping done, because we might not be able to go tomorrow," and he looked back at me, surprised. "We've just got the kids to buy for." And I answered, "Well, yeah, but" and he said, "That won't take long," and I said,
"WHAT?!!! You do remember there are five of them, right? And a son-in-law?" He looked calmly at me, and he didn't get it. It has to be a genetic thing. Holiday preparations spark a completely different response in men than women. This is supported by the evidence collected while working at the store during this holiday season. A fellow walked up to the register with a few things. "Christmas shopping?" I asked, ringing him up. "I just wanted to see what was on sale," he answered. "I don't know what I'm going to buy yet. I don't like to be rushed." It was Christmas Eve! Men and women: completely different. I'm just saying.
In any case, the holidays rushed at me like an oncoming train, and I played chicken with it, fitting in a couple hours of shopping here and there. My sister and brother-in-law brought a heaping helping of holiday baking to the store. I was ecstatic, because I surely did not know when I was going to fit in baking, on top of everything else. I had all the ingredients for cookies. I was very hopeful that elves would do my holiday baking for me, but no. No elves. They were all evidently churning out cookies for another entity, and it struck me as grossly unfair. Keebler became the very symbol of corporate greed in my mind. Two days before Christmas, Cara and I dragged the tree from the attic, and in a frenzy, we lobbed ornaments at it. The angel was hauled off the top of the book shelf, and shoved on top of the tree and we called it good. There was an orgy of wrapping, and presents were tossed under the tree. And then, finally, it was Christmas eve (All was calm! All was bright!) When Christmas morning came (Fa la la la la!), it was nice. You could hardly tell that I hadn't been ready for the holidays at all. And then it was New Year's Eve (should auld acquaintance be forgot?!) and like that, the holidays were done.
I've been undecorating. In direct contrast to the frenzied decorating, undecorating was quieter. I put the ornaments away for another year, and I smiled at the memories evoked by them. 'Baby's First' ornaments for each of the kids. Their tiny baby shoes. Ornaments from when it was just me, on my own. Tim on his own. The White House Ornaments from when Dixie served in D.C. Museum ornaments from a cousin. A San Francisco ornament from Cara and Dylan's big adventure. Even some ornaments from when I was having chemo. I could not bring myself to hang them that first year, but now, two years later, they are a symbol of just one more story in my life. One by one, I packed the ornaments away, and I remembered the stories that went with them, and I smiled small quiet smiles as I reminisced.
But I was not only looking backward, I was looking forward too. I found myself wondering what 2011 would hold for my family. Next Christmas, both Cara and I will be one semester away from graduation. Cara's going to Daegu University in Korea and will be teaching English this spring. Tim's job looks secure, which is a relief. Buddy and Brianna are back in the area. I have a grandson due next month, and I wonder about William, what kind of baby he will be. Dylan is bringing Brittany home to meet his family. That's a first, and it feels important. Mike's Bethany had sent me a friendly e-mail, and I wondered about them too. So I looked forward, I wondering what sort of woman I'd be next Christmas, unpacking the boxes of ornaments. I wondered about my family, the changes in store for them. I wondered how Christmas would be next year, all of us poised as we are on the edge of change. Some will surely leap from the precipice and discover that they can fly. Others might back away from the edge, gasping a little, not quite ready to take off. Who knows? Really? The not knowing, the mystery of it; I found myself smiling in anticipation, just as I had been smiling as I reminisced.
January is named for the Roman god Janus, who is the god of gates, doors, beginnings, endings, and of time itself. I spent the day looking back and looking forward. It was a pleasant day, full of memories and daydreams. My mind wandered as I worked, and I traveled back and forth in time. Finally it was done. Christmas was packed back into the attic for another year. I shut the attic door, and reluctantly, I returned to the present.
Debby Hornburg lives in Scandia, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her blog is found at lifesfunnylikethat.blogspot.com.