December 4: The unmistakable sounds of a birthday party greeted me as I walked to the Metro. 8:45 am is a little early for cake and ice cream, but the proof was there: a dozen eight-year olds running, squealing, clustering in the park — joyful in every sense. Even the parents, chatting nearby, seemed happy. And then I saw the pile of backpacks and heard the grinding gears of the school bus. How clever of Arlington to marry the bus stop to the neighborhood playground.
December 5: Very early this morning, with my eyes still sealed by sleep, I reached into my heart and scattered prayers like stars across the sky.
December 6: Such delights emerge when the trees surrender their leaves. I can see my neighbor’s new solar panels and the squirrels’ sturdy nests. From the train, I gaze out over the houses along the creek and down the valley. For two minutes before we entered the tunnel I could see sunrises on windows and doors. I imagined warm kitchens, steaming cups of coffee, open newspapers and, just this once, a whole neighborhood’s leisurely embrace of the day.
December 7: Stand up. Cross your hands in front of your face and flap. Sit down. Stand up and tuck your fists under your armpits and flap. Then fling your arms over your head to make an O. Sit down. Stand up and, with your index finger planted on the crown of your head, twirl once. Sit down. There. You’ve danced one third of the Twelve Days of Christmas with hundreds of laughing, panting strangers, Christmas Revels style. Welcome, Yule!
December 8: A Christmas tree by the numbers: Seven and a half feet of Frasier Fir. Three branches pruned from the base. Four screws and two guy-wires providing stability. Eight trips to the sink to fill the watering can to fill the base. Two friends standing the tree tall and just a little crooked. Five magazines, six adjustments and four more friends to make it perfectly straight. Who needs ornamental houses and tiny lights when we had a village of our own to put up Kathy’s tree.
December 9: Today’s the day Arlington County closes the trail for year-long improvements. Or maybe a week from today. Since mid-November when the first closing date was announced, I have celebrated each moment of reprieve — and each glimpse of tiny ordinary life I’ve chosen to ignore for these sixteen commuting years. Even today’s fog delighted me. I visit the trail just four minutes each morning. Now they are four full minutes of wonder.
December 10: Yesterday I treated myself to a grilled Turkey Reuben for lunch: a rare treat. Soothed by my sandwich’s toasty warmth, I glided to the register — and realized too late that my wallet was at home. The manager nodded to the checkout staff. “I know her. She’ll pay tomorrow.” Grateful, I scampered back to my desk. Now I stand in line again, clutching another warm yummy sandwich in one hand and yesterday’s ticket in the other. The manager nodded again as I paid, each of us grateful to live even for a moment in a world of kindness, honor and trust.
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