Company for the holidays

The most unusual of occurrences has, well, occurred. We have had company for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and this has thrown us into the sort of whirlwind of activity that we experience very seldom. The words “beat to quarters!” (our rallying cry when people are expected socially) have been called out more frequently and with more gusto than in a long, long time. This wasn’t “company’s coming to stay,” but rather “company’s coming for dinner!” That means that we went about our business during the day only to go into a frenzy of preparations shortly before they were due to arrive.

That’s my excuse for not checking in sooner. It’s true, but it’s an excuse nonetheless. On this, the day before the day before the last day of the year, I am so tired and so ready for the holidays to be over that I am seriously considering going to bed at 7 P.M. It’s not happening, of course, but the temptation exists.

Let’s backtrack a bit. The Twelve Days, as usual, went along smoothly except for the one catastrophic hitch of we sang off-key every single night, and -because there was so much going on- we relied on the pictures in our Twelve Days’ cards and ended up singing “eleven trumpets tooting” followed by a rather animated discussion of what the exact wording IS, and “eleven wind instruments making noise” the next night prompting a search for the actual lyrics online, and J saying ‘TEN!!!!!’ rather loudly so we would get on with it…

The relatives that joined us were somewhat unexpected. A cousin I’d not seen since TGG was a toddler (and J hadn’t yet been born) and his brother in-law were in town for a visit. Our family is as complex as the tendrils that grow from one vine from another, and this cousin grew up down the street from my childhood home, is my mother’s first-cousin, and has a niece who is doing her residency in the hospital where Dada works. Dada’s paternal grandmother was this cousin’s father’s first cousin. Our table was populated by relatives by blood, relatives by marriage, and relatives by blood AND marriage. That we are all nearly 1700 miles away from “home” and meeting for Christmas twenty years since we last saw each other is surreal.
J took well to the new additions to our dinner roster. The first visit, during which two middle-aged men came into our home while I was alone with J and Dada and TGG were at work, incited my youngest to be at his most protective. He was polite, but he made sure that it was easy to see how tall and strong he is. He followed us around, sat with us as we conversed, and locked the door quite noisily after they’d gone back to their car. The next visit, with the whole family present, was much more relaxed because, well, if Dada is OK with these two men coming to visit, J wasn’t going to act like my bodyguard. By Christmas dinner, J was jovially hugging people and saying Merry Christmas like this was an annual gathering at our home.

Yesterday we took down our Christmas tree, and J didn’t seem bothered by it at all. Little by little, we’ve been removing the signs of the holiday season, phasing out the notion of a vacation and ushering in a return to school. Winter, thank goodness, has been kind to us so far. I credit my over-preparedness for staving off the cold and snow and ice that plagued us last year, but -deep inside- we know it’s some sort of cyclical weather pattern that has made the season more temperate than last winter. We haven’t really seen snow. We’ve seen flakes, and a thin layer that melted quite quickly, leaving little sign of its passing. We’ve been cold, but not to the point that we’d been last December. Perhaps, we think, it’s 2015’s arrival that will open the floodgates of winter and we’ll put to good use all the things we’ve lined up to manage cold and snow.

It has been a year of upheaval. Every year, let’s face it, is a year of upheaval, but this year sort of knocked us on our asses. Its one-two punch has been…solid. We thought we were out of the woods, but on Friday evening my dad was taken back to the hospital with a fever caused by a urinary tract infection. He is still there. He celebrated his 85th birthday hospitalized, and his move to a rehab facility is jeopardized by this particular development. Unless he is cleared to go, he will go home and work only on two hours of physical therapy a week, and that hasn’t been sufficient so far. My cousins visited my mother this past weekend, and the news from there are similar; she is bedridden, no longer wears her dentures, and still bobs in and out of present day reality. With her 84th birthday looming ahead, I am hoping we’ll get to see her soon, but I cannot promise myself or anyone else that this will happen. Our holidays have been punctuated by the loss of Dada’s father this summer, and by my father’s and mother’s decline. Sometimes, when I hear my bones creak, I realize that I am older than my mother was when my grandmother passed away. My mother has already outlived her mother by a good 8 years, and the women in my family seem to last a long time…

Of course, I say this as I think of the birthday party my high-school class threw this weekend for those turning fifty. Much like in the 30th anniversary reunion, the women look pristinely youthful, and I am quite glad I wasn’t there to feel…like a wreck? For one, I saw only one photograph of a woman with gray hair, and her haircut was stylish and hip. I didn’t see one single woman who looks like she’s constantly reaching for the tweezers to pluck hairs off her chin. Every girl there was pretty, stylish, fashionable, youthful. I’m not saying they were all thin, but they all dressed a far deal more impressively than I do.

I confess that, in light of these photos, I went to Target and bought some face cream because of the red patches that have started cropping up due to the ever-plummeting levels of estrogen in my body. I spent a great deal of time muttering at the multitude of boxes that announced “anti-aging,” “anti-wrinkle,” “youth restoring,” and so on and so forth. I don’t want to look younger, but I don’t want to look like I’ve had an encounter with jellyfish… Sadly, none of the boxes said “this is the cream for you if you don’t want to look like you’ve had an encounter with jellyfish.” I picked the most harmless looking (and cheapest) jar of face cream, and then I proceeded to get hungry as I applied it because it smells like orange creme sorbet.

And that’s been the holidays so far. I know we have one more to go, and lots of paperwork to get through before then. I know that it brings my fiftieth and J’s twentieth birthdays closer…but it brings to a close a mean year. One can of worms will be discarded, and perhaps another one will be opened…perhaps this will be something nicer. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…
Until we get there, well, it’s like Schrödinger’s Cat…it might be awesome, or it might be a dud. Let’s call it awesome until it proves otherwise, and finish 2014 off with as much dignity as we can muster…

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