December 18: I’m binge-listening to the Hamilton cast album again. In the car, in the kitchen, everywhere. I’ve just come to the part where Hamilton falls into the insalubrious embraces of Maria Reynolds, but only after singing an urgent, lamenting prayer to stand strong. Funny how I thought of this in the office pantry while looking at mounds of muffins, cascades of cookies and piles of cheesecake and fudge bars. Yes, Alexander, “Show me how to say no to this.”
December 19: All I want this Christmas is you, Santa. And last night, I thought I missed you. I heard you in the distance as I walked home from the Metro. A siren, far away. But tonight, on my first day of Christmas vacation, there you were. Glorious, as always, in your throne atop the Falls Church Fire Department truck, all lighted and sing-song. Sirens and horns, amped-up carols, and firefighters walking alongside handing out candy canes and safety tips. I waved joyously, and you waved back, Santa. As I write this I hear kids up the street calling out for you. I know you won’t forget them either. (I write this on my own street corner. Wait! Here he comes again! Gotta go!)
December 20: Happy Birthday, Kevin! In your honor, the waning days begin to gain more light. Our birthday parade — cake, candles, presents, singing — eluded your video but you told us you felt the love. Just as we intended.
December 21: I had resolved to rise at 3 am to bake cookies, but on reflection that seemed silly. So I went to bed with no set plan. The Universe, however, had triple chocolate shortrbread on her mind, and I snapped awake at 3:47 am. Soon I was mixing and rolling and baking; eventually I produced three types of cookies, as well as spicy almonds and bourbon balls — just in time for Kasia to pack a tin to share with her family in New Jersey. Baking love.
December 22: “The best Christmas presence of all.” So said her mom about Anita, a skinny, shy, sweet German shepherd mix who visits us from time to time. Jeremiah provides dog care services, and Anita provides family-sized loving. Our annual Christmas pictures now include Anita. Maybe this year Santa will find her too?
December 23: I could be a whaler’s rigging for all the knots in my body. Roberta’s fingers clambered up and down, finding muscle that refused to yield: shoulders and shins, forearms and glutes. And yet for all that I drifted in a gauzy semi-awareness like a boat in calm tropical seas. A Christmas present to myself.
December 24: Over the past few days, I’ve relished stories of my friends’ Christmas Eve traditions, especially those celebrating family heritage: Italian, Lithuanian and Polish (twice). Our tradition resembles a whirlwind, and the boys navigate us through every detail: First, we slip into the afternoon family service at Falls Church Presbyterian Church, where Nate once played Herod in the Christmas pageant and Jeremiah guided a visiting dog (we have no memory why the dog was there). Next, as luminaries shimmer in the new darkness, we whizz to Seekers Church in Takoma Park, where we roll joyously through a pot luck feast, sing-along-carols and a lovely service. Nate and Jeremiah, having grown up in the church, proudly read some of the Lessons, and the worship leader now welcomes the congregation to stand as we sing Go Tell It On the Mountain (because she knows Nate and Jeremiah will be standing anyway).
Back in the car, Nate cues up an old time radio show, Fibber McGee and Molly, and the boys recite all the jokes. Then we drive to the Marcys’ extravagantly decorated house in Arlington, which awed families for decades, and Jeremiah activates the electric trains. Finally, home, Nate mixes us an eggnog cocktail — a welcome new tradition! — and we settle before the fire eating cookies and reading Christmas books. I share the hilarious and moving climax of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, and Nate, using his teacher voice — and discipline — leads us in The Night Before Christmas. When at last “we settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,” we wished for nothing more. We hope your Christmas was blessed too.
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