Dishes are washed; platters and cookie sheets are put away. The load of table clothes and napkins is folded and back into a drawer in the kitchen. The insulated shades in the two bedrooms not normally used are down. Julia has had three therapists in the house today and is quietly playing and chatting about Peter Pan, her playmobile horse barn, and the chocolate gelt that she is munching on. I have an almost irresistible urge to put Christmas away -- take down the tree, put away lights and candles, and get the house back to the new normal of a renovation that is 95% finished.
But I won’t take Christmas down quite yet.
Julia loves the tree and the window lights. And after all, the tree has just be up for a 5 days and decorated for only three. I can leave it all be for at least another week. New Years might be a good day for it, but I have at least two reasons for putting it all away.
The first is no surprise. First Christmas with all my stuff -- home, with Cheshire home, with those boxes of Christmas decorations and bits of memories oozing out from every corner. So many Christmases past. David was not a good gift giver. I had been spoiled before I met him by a young man who gave me wondrous presents that were necessities that I had no idea that I needed. They were beautiful and many of them handmade, and ever so thoughtful. David could buy from lists or suggestions, but when he ventured beyond that, his choices usually fell short. Of course, he would probably say the same about me. Both of us returned many, many presents and congratulated each other when either of us was really happy with a single gifts. The gifts that worked the best were those with healthy doses of nostalgia built in: Baci from our days in Italy, favorite old movies, travel books, and for me from David, little pieces of jewelry, stuff of every day wear. This year on Christmas, as we were emptying our stockings, the stockings that I made the year the Cheshire was born and quite conveniently had made 4 -- just in case, I found a little chocolate reindeer in the very bottom. We all were trying to guess what it really was because it was not clear from looking at it until you found the drawn antlers. I was surprised the Cheshire didn’t know what it was assuming that she bought it, commenting to myself that it was strange that she put one in my stocking and not in Julia’s and did not get a piece for Linde. But of course, Cheshire didn’t put it in. We were not home for last year and so, the diminutive reindeer must be two years old. Sitting in my put away stocking since Christmas 2009. Like the Valentine Day’s card that popped out from no where last winter, this is a David gift, neatly concealed, awaiting discovery. A wish from that other life we led, a sigh that travelled through time and circumstance to be my surprise, a sweet message that I/he/we can still think of each other. There will not be many more of these surprises, any more of these surprises. But I said thank you. Even if it is the last.
Our busyness over the week before Christmas kept my mind where it needed to be. Here. Present. Living each day. Talking endlessly to Cheshire and Linde. Shopping. Baking. Cooking. Doctor visits. Therapies. Making my daily lists and checking off the tasks accomplished. Every so often I would be quiet or alone and I could feel myself sinking, feel myself being swept into the sadness. The well was not as deep this year, not as desperate. I did not claw with bare knuckles, I could hoist myself out with strong arms. I did not get lost. I did not let the noise of the present dim to engage the sad.
I write that the well is not as deep, but I am not sure if that is true or if I just don’t need to sink into despair. Is it will? Is it healing? The sadness and missing is still there to be sure. Dropping Cheshire off at the airport yesterday at 4, I felt as alone as I ever could. There seemed no reason to do anything but disappear into nothingness. Having a Julia Dinosaur with a playmobile horse farm to put together is the stuff of tomorrows. Of joys. Of the new life.
I was not incredibly sad this past week. I was conscious that I wanted to do tasks that had the potential of becoming new traditions. I have a great need to begin anew and that was what I was doing. It was exhausting in part but I, and my girls, did it. And we will do it again next year and the year after.
But now that it is over, it would be nice to just be past it all and on with our regular life because there is that exhausting part. The cheeriness of the season does not wear well.
And then there is the feeling that Cheshire explained to me. Anticipation for this next bit of living. For Cheshire, it will be off to NYU and the beginning of her social work masters. Eighteen months of hard work. She is excited. She can’t stand waiting. I share the feeling about getting back to the work of lying fallow. The boxes and files need to be dragged back upstairs from the basement. The sorting needs to begin again. The unpacking and pile making needs to happen. The renovation of the house has truly given me a new lease on my surroundings. The colors, the shapes, the storage are so serene. I have created a good work place and a place with quiet beauty and calm. There are blank places to fill in. The dining room is especially empty after months of housing the make shift kitchen but that will come. It will be full again soon enough with the papers and boxes and files. I have someplace to comfortably sort now. I am ready to take up the work that I put aside when the kitchen work started and I am ready to go further.
I finished putting the blog entries into word processing files. I believe it is time to move on to a project with all these words as well. I hesitate to start. I have no idea where to begin. The deep water beckons.
On Christmas, during a brunch of lox and bagels and grapefruit salad and apple oatmeal, I announced my intention to begin a memoir. I announced it to those present, most of whom knew my intention, but I announced it to make it so. To mark the beginning of the work of it. Even though I have no idea of where to begin. It is my greatest resolution for the new year.
And my other resolution, one with less import, but still needing energy and resolve. I will go on a date in 2012. Don’t laugh! Really. I want a partner some day. Not soon. Someday. But I need some social practice and a date would be a very good idea.
So much for Christmas.