The sky is a dark slate lavender with no sun. Looking out into the fog of snow we could be anywhere. There are no markers, only dark cold and fast snow. We are in the cloud. You can’t see the mountains for the slow and silent fog of snow that has enveloped the whole landscape. It is bitterly cold, but still. The wind has stopped to catch its breath. Even the dogs don’t want to go out. We woke up and got some hot food into Eli before bundling him out the door to school when really it seemed more like time to be getting ready for bed. Nature seems to have her days and nights mixed up like a new baby.
Inside, our Christmas tree and Ella Fitzgerald do their best to ward off the chill. The tree stands majestically in the library with a perfect shape, almost like a cartoon version of a Christmas tree. It is about nine or ten feet tall with our gorgeous three dimensional white star on top. A few years ago, the little door that lets you in to change the white light broke and we had to glue it back together. Every year we pray the light will hold, and it has, like a little Christmas miracle. The tree is covered all over with those tiny colorful lights that blend together into a sky of color when you squint at them just right. Our whole lives are on this tree. There is the little hand painted glass sphere with the gondola on it that we brought back from Venice. Another one with a tiny wintry lighthouse scene came home from our first trip to Martha’s Vineyard many many years ago. I can see the red bag of popcorn, spun from sugary thin glass that reminded Hannah of going to the movies. And the fabulous Caped Crusader, hand blown, that takes me back to Benjamin’s Batman years. And John’s gold pocket watch from when he was a little boy wraps around a branch just like it has on one tree or another for almost forty years. My grandmother’s Minnie Mouse ornament the year Minnie was introduced must be 75 years old by now. Eli has a white mountain lion, which hangs low and which somehow miraculously no cat or dog has ever broken. We wire it on, but still that thin glass stretched into such an elaborate huge concoction always seems luckier than it has any right to be. There must be more than a hundred beautiful little glass ornaments. Christopher Radco was born just so he could grow up and make these wonderful ornaments for our tree.
I have some wireless speakers so I can hear Ella all the way up at my wrapping station. I have an old battered table with peeling green paint, that I found in an antique store, but which would also be right at home in an ancient chicken coop. It is in our big bedroom which has a door so that the kids can’t see what I’m doing. I have baskets of ribbon and old milk glass jars filled with tape and scissors. I am taking this day off to wrap and try and get warm. I have been running fast again, panicked by the trillions of dollars that go missing every day and afraid of the warnings about the collapse of life as we know it. Two of my clients can’t pay me because their endowments have dropped beneath the threshold that lets them cut checks. They will pay me, just not today. And since when remains a little unclear, I have been thinking up new clients and meeting everybody I can think of who might need me only they just don’t know it yet. I have done this dancing fast routine before. And a dark wintry day when the temperatures are in the single digits is no time to practice the steps. Instead I will make a big mug of hot spicy cocoa and wrap up some things that will make someone smile. I will turn the volume way up and let Ella belt out Santa Baby as loud as those little speakers can handle. Maybe I’ll make some of those peanut butter balls, or those little bird’s nest cookies so that when everybody gets here, we can all get giddy sugar highs. The world may be falling apart a little bit at the seams, but it’s Christmas. I think we’ve all counted worries long enough. I’d rather measure some sugar and beat a couple of eggs instead…….