As I sat at my desk, gray dawn to gray twilight, the snow fell and swirled as sooty juncos swarmed the birdseed dumped on a protected table top. Barely inside the window that frames my view into the woods, I could see Garden Froggy, golden eyes bulging, disappearing into a drift like a mastodon sinking into the La Brea tar pits. Froggy and the cobalt pottery fountain over which he watches, were supposed to have been brought in for the winter. Having fallen out of mind with the falling of the leaves, they are now nearly out of sight.
I should not have been at my desk, at least not all day long. I should have driven into the city and presided over a final exam. My students, however, will get an “I” for “incomplete” and we will have to find a time to schedule the exam when they return to campus in January.
By Monday afternoon our driveway had been excavated. On Tuesday I braved a solo trip to the Mall. Baking cookies absorbed most of my attention on Wednesday: oatmeal-applesauce-raisin cookies, Tollhouse classics, and Nannie’s molasses-ginger cookies (my personal favorites). I polished silver and laid the table with crimson cloth, gleaming cutlery, new candles. By Christmas Eve there was not a great deal to do, baking a pie, sweeping up, bathing and dressing for dinner.
I cherish Christmas Eve. The white pinpricks of light on the tree reflect from ornaments gathered over a lifetime. Buttery oyster stew steams in soup plates and bubbly effervesces in crystal. The centerpiece on the table is a sleigh and in the sleigh are small Santa gifts, one for every person present, just as on my mother’s table, and on her mother’s table, too. Every Christmas Eve my parents read The Night Before Christmas to all assembled and inscribed names and dates on the flyleaf of the book. I did that as well until my Tattooed Boy would no longer sit and listen. I miss it.
Today is the day after Boxing Day. Temperatures steadily rose on Christmas and by nightfall the air was moist. Rain was steady the next morning and by afternoon the drifts of white had melted into green grass.
Christmas is past for another year. There are fewer Christmas cards this year than in the past but more e-greetings. Yuletide is but a brief moment; it no longer starts when I open the first door of the Advent calendar and it concludes long before the Epiphany of the Magi. The arc of anticipation is flatter, a ramp both short and steep, and there are no more of those miles to go before I sleep.