December 24: Each Christmas Eve, we journey to the church where the boys grew up, for a potluck supper and a Service of Lessons and Carols. Nate and Jeremiah would offer readings and then would rise together to sing “Go Tell It On the Mountain” — even though the program clearly directed us to sit. (The congregation unfailingly rose to join them.) We’d take the slow route home, better to enjoy the Christmas lights and the old-time radio show on our local station.
Last year, of course, upended everything. The boys read their passages over Zoom and I had to cook an entire meal. But afterwards out we went into the night, to search for Christmas lights and to listen, as always, to Fibber McGee and Molly.
Last year’s make-do is this year’s tradition. The lights are still beautiful, the radio story is still funny, and Nate’s egg-nog cocktails still warm us through. As we do every year, we closed the last page of the last read-aloud Christmas book and chorused “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
Bonus: Inspired by An Embarrassment of Riches published by Slovenian-Italian blogger Manja, I have selected images from my blog for each month of 2021. This image, from January, shows my neighborhood creek, Four Mile Run, which welcomed my walks all year long. To see the entire gallery, click here.
December 25: Kevin ventured warily to the poker table. We assured him that we were not actually gambling on Christmas Day (“This is just a game, Dad; these are just playing pieces!”). So Kevin sat down. After a refresh (or three) of the rules, Kevin rose again 45 minutes later with a Mount Everest of chips before him. Kevin enjoyed his victory. I think we enjoyed his company even more.
December 26: Yesterday, after laughing through our topsy-turvy Texas Hold ‘Em and a few more of Nate’s cocktails, I wandered reluctantly into the kitchen to prepare the Christmas feast. Jeremiah was slated to make two dishes and Nate stood beside me snapping green beans. I sighed: Someday someone would call me to the table for a home-cooked meal. Nate immediately threw his arm across my back. “Sit down, Mom. We’ve got this.”
And they did. When I would pipe up from the sofa with a suggestion, Nate would growl like an imperious maitre d’ , “Madame, you are zee customer; I am zee chef.” I quieted down and tucked into one of my new books. Soon I was summoned to dinner as an honored guest. Everything was wonderful.
Nate definitely has menu suggestions for next year. And I’ve never been happier to wash dishes. When Nate reached for a sponge, I said, “Sit down, Nate. I’ve got this.”
December 27: The days have slipped away into timelessness. Was today Monday or Tuesday? Who knows? I did know, however, that I’d lined up a lovely day of visiting friends. I love to hibernate. And I love sticking my nose out of my den to enjoy the sunshine of my friends.
December 28: Improbable coincidence #96. Yesterday, Eileen — cherished friend and owner of our cherished bookstore One More Page Books — gave me a book called “Four Thousand Weeks” and implored me to read it. Today, I cued up a writers podcast; instead of exchanging craft tips, the host and her guest discussed exactly that book.
As best I can tell, from the podcast and the book’s early pages, the author emphasizes the freedom that comes when we embrace finitude. He celebrates the relief we feel when we choose to let go of energy-sapping projects and pursuits. I think he even describes JOMO: the Joy of Missing Out. “Settling” — sometimes dismissed as anemic compromise — here is akin to allowing flakes in a snow globe float gently down from turbulence to peace.
As Eileen wisely recognized, this book arrives as I face the joyful — and burdensome? — infinitude of retirement. So many possibilities! I’ll make one choice immediately: to read this book.
December 29: Even though dawn passed hours ago, a sliver of milky salmon separated the ocean from the clouds. The ocean was gray, calm, and uninviting. A lone surfer straddled his board; he might have been a seal on a solitary rock. No wind. No rain (yet). And so few rideable waves. The surfer, maneuvering for the slightest swell, would fail again and again: choosing the wrong spot, mis-timing the wave, or tumbling from the board. And yet he was out there, patient, steadfast, believing in himself, and believing in the hours of waiting for that one sweet ride.
Bonus: My friend Jini sent me a link to this rose and sand Santa, a bit of ephemeral public art in the Indian state of Puri, where her parents were born. He’s jolly and huge. Look at the people for a sense of his size. Thank you, Jini!
December 30: Knuckles wrapped against the window next to Nate’s and my table on the porch of the Hotel Atlantic restaurant. We looked over. A woman at a table on the other side of the window pointed toward our appetizer and moved her lips. We understood: “Is that the Eggplant Tower?” We nodded enthusiastically. She smiled and made an “aw shucks” gesture.
I returned to the dish and slowly extracted a rosemary spear that bound the eggplant and cheese layers. I placed paired discs into the rose-and-vodka flavored tomato sauce, and Nate and I dug in. At the end of our meal, the woman stopped by our table. “I knew I should have ordered that!” We couldn’t help but agree.
December 31: The blog feature you are reading is “My Year of Delights.” I ended my first “Year” in May 2020 and went into a bit of writing hiatus. I decided to launch a second “Year of Delights” on January 1, 2021. That “Year” now draws to a close.
I awakened this morning pondering my choices. I started to imagine being “free from” the daily work of finding something lovely, something kind, something funny, or something wise. I started to imagine liberating myself from having to crystalize those moments into meaning. And I started to imagine how much I would miss my friends and fellow bloggers from around the world who, through these Delights, engage and encourage me with “likes” and comments — and who share their own stories in response.
I asked my inner sloth bear whether I would seek, find and crystalize without my daily Delights. Nope, she said, we both need a good poke. And she also reminded me how much I value all of you.
See you in 2022!
Readers, to receive notifications by email each time I make a post, just scroll all the way down this page (next to the “word cloud”), look to the left and click on the black button that says “Join Me!” And if you think a friend might enjoy these, please share the Delight!
If you’d like to browse my past essays, please consult the “word cloud” featured at the very bottom of this post. Find a theme or two that interests you and sift through the sands. Or learn a bit more about my Blog by visiting my Welcome page. You’ll also see links to my four published essays. I’m glad you’re here!