We have all been on a long vacation. Hannah got half of December and all of January. Eli is homeschooled and thinks his vacation ought to match hers…(his teachers don’t quite agree, but have been slow to ramp back up) And Benjamin is more of a sporadic student and an accomplished vacationer. John is out of the store and back home with us. This suited me just fine since I couldn’t get our customers to see me as December began to close, and wound up wrapping presents, baking cookies, and seeing movies just like everybody else.
So our house has been full again. There are other college kids home on break at our dinner table. We have had guests like Andy, Hannah’s pal since second grade who is here now until his life at Kenyon College resumes. And with all the snow everybody is sledding and drinking that new spicy hot cocoa. This is winter like it oughta be.
I remember Christmas vacation as a kid. The best part was playing with your new stuff and eating all those soft sugary cookies. As a grown up there are shrimp, and crab cakes, with fudge and eggnog to add to the mix of rich decadent indulgence. This year there is also Netflix. You sit around and bicker over what goes in the queue, and then you compromise and voila’, tomorrow it is in your mailbox. Magic. There is that too big TV right next to the fire, with lots of big soft blankets and dogs snuggled up close. If I had it to do over this is what I would have asked Santa to bring. These two weeks.
We always ask each other, what do you want for Christmas? Usually there are some books that make me sigh in anticipation of the days by the fire that are just around the corner. And fancy soap is always an easy call, since reading in the bathtub is also high on my list. But what about the question in its existential form? What do you want for Christmas? Healthy kids, yeah sure, an end to this wretched war, of course, the big ones are easy. But what is it really? What do you want? And the answers are surely ticked into the tiny surprise moments. There was the drive to the restaurant on Christmas Eve when we all told stories about old Christmases, and got there feeling full and glad and really ready for Christmas. There was the afternoon when we were all captivated by the puppy and the cat playing like the best friends they have become. We watched for more than half an hour laughing and content. And the night that we all wound up on the big bed, after someone had been mean to one of us. Our clan, for that is surely what we are, drew ranks and instinctively headed to a soft cocoon where we could love each other up like when the kids were little. So this is it. It turns out to have been here all along. This is what I want. To begin another year with these four other people in this beautiful place. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year…
The biggest shock when you get out of school and into the real world is that unless you teach, there really is no Christmas vacation. My first (and 38 years later) only job as a public librarian gave me a Christmas ‘vacation’ of 4 hours on Christmas Eve and all day Christmas Day. Of course, I managed to break my ankle on the parking lot the day after Christmas that year, so my ‘vacation’ stretched till Valentine’s Day!