And so the tree’s ornaments have gone back to their boxes and into the garage. I know that’s not the actual meaning of Boxing Day, but that’s how it works around here. A little less Christmas seems to be dangling from walls, resting on surfaces and so forth. J was not upset about the packing away or about the tree being put on the downstairs deck…he knows there’s some celebrating left to do, but we are all done with this particular portion of Christmas.
Some time around nine P.M., J discovered the whoopee cushion he had been ignoring since he emptied his Christmas stocking in the early morning hours. At around 9:00 this became the funniest, most useful item he had ever encountered and we could hear him blowing air into it, squeezing it, and laughing loudly (and heartily) with each farting sound. Its moment had not arrived ’til then, but then it arrived in grand fashion. As I told my oldest: last year it was the chattering teeth, this year it’s the whoopee cushion. All that effort to purchase nicer presents, and -like the proverbial empty cardboard roll- it’s the little things that matter most.
So here we are today…with an echo in the family room. I called out to J from halfway up the stairs and my voice bounced on the walls. The room seems a lot more spacious and, finally, it smells of pine. Yes, after about sixteen days of having a pine tree sitting in the family room, the room now smells like Christmas…because the tree is gone! Maybe it’s my imagination, but trees used to carry with them a potent fragrance. Maybe it’s because we are now accustomed to the smell of sprays, deodorizers, scented candles? I don’t know…I look at those commercials where a woman lights a candle her home is transformed into an indoors Winter Wonderland and it freaks me out a little.
Tomorrow we go back to some of the normal holiday routine. Today Dada is at home enjoying one of the few days he gets off from work. Oldest son came home from work at 7 a.m. and is sleeping, but he doesn’t work tonight…so tonight we get to spend time together without presents being exchanged, a fancy meal being served or even a holiday movie being played. Tonight we just get to be a family.
The year is almost completely spent. In less than a week all of 2011 will be gone and we will have a semi-clean slate ahead of us with a header that reads “2012.” I say semi-clean because no year is complete devoid of the previous one, and it’s not like 2012’s calendar isn’t already dotted with commitments we’ve made to see doctors, go places, get together with other human beings. I know of TWO medical appointments shortly after school starts up again. And behind those are many more, and bills to pay, and letters to write… We have a whole year coming our way, and we’ve already put things in it when we don’t yet own it.
J’s seventeenth birthday is a little over a month away. Seventeen years old! It hardly seems possible. I still have not sat down to ask myself what that means, where those 17 years have led us.
For now, though, I am going to return to the garage to retrieve a few more boxes. I am going to think of what I did this Christmas that I can improve on next Christmas. I am going to try to remind myself that I didn’t entirely screw it up, that I merely -in spite of my own admonitions to the contrary- put too much stock on some things and not enough on others.
I want to do this because I want to pin something on next year’s calendar already: the hope that I learned something from this Christmas. J is looking at me with a semi-serious expression on his very handsome face. I wish you could see him. Yesterday my father told me once more that J is “fat,” but this time he made the admission that he hadn’t fully understood about the medication. Well, I said, there’s a lot you don’t understand, dad. He was quiet for a while and then launched into how he wants to do more for J. I realized it was not so much that he feels he’s failed J, but that he’s realized he might be running out of time. Tomorrow, of course, is my dad’s birthday and he’s no spring chicken…I think he’s done some math (as one sometimes tends to do during the holidays) and he’s come to see that the calendar might not be in his favor anymore.
It’s not in anyone’s favor, really. Once you’re born you’re on a course to the same destination as everyone else. This is not sad, no…it’s a fact and, if anything, we should use it to impel us to action…to craziness…to spontaneity…to hopes and wishes…to plans…to adventure…to risks…and to love. When you love and you act on that love, regardless of knowing where life eventually leads to, you will have one heck of a ride…even if it’s peppered here and there with clunky Xmas presents, cranky children, a snappy spouse, a dry turkey…
Almost to the end of the year…if we’re sledding down the last hill on it, let’s put our hands in the air and laugh joyously. If we’re climbing the last hill of it: let’s pick a song that we can hum along so the climb will at least be memorable and have some rhythm to it…