(I posted this poem in December of last year, but I can’t resist posting it again…)
Whoa, December, wait one minute
I’m hardly roused from my feasted slumber
When you start to number my days
Set clocks and worry flocks of shoppers
Lost in evergreen lots and sticker-shock
Tick tock, sweet silver bells ringing the hour
As if to hurry my step into line
My dour minuet with Father Time
Stumbling on to the end
The bitter end of another year
Another calendar page, scrawled
With duty and a glitter of waste
With things I never desired
The blouse gift-receipt, creased
In haste and taped over the size
I couldn’t accept, a final refrain
After the glaze is scraped
From cold and golden morns
And oh, December, wait please wait
For the lights to change, for fire
To blaze through our litter of wrappings
Pause tonight among muttering beasts
In their scatter of straw, their dusty ease
From lust’s numb ache, from labor’s strain
Rest among these flight-tired geese
Mid-route, heads tucked under folded
Wings, murmuring psalms to themselves
I adore Christmas decorations, and therefore own far too many of them. But each ornament and figurine, toy and trinket has it’s own story. Each represents a memory or wish, a moment or emotion. They sparkle and spin on the tree. They march across shelves and perch on the mantel. For a single season, the house sprouts a glorious clutter of nostalgia and peace.
Next week, I’ll spend a quiet day packing it all into boxes and stacking it in the attic for another year, and the house will resume its usual routine. My memories, wishes, moments, and emotions will scatter, untethered, into the nebulous ether of experience.
Please bring me a box of treats, a rabbit-proof fence for the yard, and a new toy.
Naughty list? Dad’s gloves? You heard about that?
I didn’t know there was a naughty list.
What if I find new gloves for Dad? See? I found these in the closet.
So they said if I’m really good between now and Christmas, I might get back on the nice list. I’m trying, but it’s hard. Mom and Dad leave stuff everywhere, and sometimes I get nervous when I’m alone, then I need to chew on something. You understand, don’t you?
If it weren’t so cold, I’d stay outside until Christmas. I never get in trouble out here.
I’m nervous about Christmas. Will you tell me a story?
And then what happened?
Can I get back on the nice list now? It’s Christmas Eve, and I promise that I’ve been really, really good!
I think I heard something…
Mother bought an artificial Christmas tree many years ago, tired of fighting the yearly mess. (And the predictable attack of severe allergies.) Eventually she gave up on the artificial tree, too. She replaced it with a small ceramic tree, which fit on the table and was easy to put away when Christmas was over. All of this means that Vanna, who is thirteen years old, has never seen a real Christmas tree. Until last night…
Her housemates are accustomed to our mysterious mid-December decor, but that doesn’t mean they are immune to the tree’s allure.
This year’s tree seems to have earned the approval of all three cats. It survived the rigors of feline inspection and is, for the moment, their favorite spot in the house.
Several years ago we purchased a set of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer toys. We bought them on a whim, because we both have fond childhood memories of watching the animated Christmas special. We didn’t know that our dog, Indigo, would claim the toys for her own. They became her favorite part of Christmas, and ours. She knew what box they were stored in, in the attic, and visited them as often as allowed during the intervals between holidays. Each November, she danced underfoot as we brought the box downstairs and unpacked “her” toys. Then she climbed onto the couch and stared at them for hours on end. Her first task every morning was to check on the toys, and she begged for us to make them sing over and over during the day.
Last year, my mother died in October. Selfish in my grief, I skipped Christmas altogether. I didn’t decorate or buy gifts. I didn’t send cards or listen to carols, and I complained about the month-long marathon of televised nostalgia.
During the year of my cancelled Christmas, Indigo aged dramatically. Her hearing loss advanced to complete deafness, and an insidious onset of distraction and anxiety altered her personality. So I shouldn’t have been surprised, today, by her muted reaction to the Rudolph toys. She danced a slow, stiff dance as I placed them on the mantel, wagged her tail as I activated them each in turn, and then wandered away in search of a warm place to nap. She has not returned to the toys, and I have not tried to remind her of them.
It seems that this part of Christmas must move into the past and take its place among all of my other holiday memories. I’m sad to lose such a simple source of joy, but I’m happy to say it’s not completely gone. Two years ago, we spent an afternoon filming Indigo with her toys, and I have this video to treasure and share…