Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Pencils down.

"And how was your day?" said Abby
to her friend, Tree. 

(quote credit: Courtney Bonifant)
A little arrow of joy sailed into my heart this morning to realize it is the twentieth of December. 


When you are in the twenty-somethingth of December, you are not close, but really close to Christmas. And, in my blue exam book, this means pencils down. 

This means it's time to do stuff that matters. If you're a list and task freak, all stressed out over what you have to do, it's time to realize that a lot of stuff is more important than finding holiday plates and napkins that don't have Rudolph and snowmen on them.

Ever since I was a wee me, there has been something magical about December 20. 

Back then, it meant the start of classroom parties and school vacation and the long awaited (single showing) of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which was punctuated every four minutes with commercials about Norelco shavers. 

Afternoons turned dark before the bus finished dropping us off, and little homes with candles in the windows made even the crappy neighborhoods look like they could be featured in a snow globe.  

For me, December 20 starts a short stretch that is not about undone tasks on the list, but stuff that doesn't make the list because if it did, the list would look like this:

Replace candles
Thank someone for making a difference in your life
Pick up sugar cookie mix
Check beer and tortilla chips
Say something encouraging to a stranger. 

For me, in these last days, have-to's become hope-to's until all that's really important are the want-to's which tend to arrive late. 

I was hoping to receive and wrap the balance of gifts I've ordered by now. I was hoping I'd find a new centerpiece for the Christmas Eve table. It would have been nice to replace some of the linen and towels before everyone arrives. I should buy new candles. 

But it is December 20 now and my "want to's" are here.

Handwritten cards - meaningful ones - will be composed  for best friends and others.

Comfort foods that my children love and request every year, even though they would never order them in a restaurant, will be waiting.

There will be a date with my husband in a quiet place where we will likely have a conversation about life; how it changes, how it doesn't, and how it should, if we want to embrace memories in the future rather than dodge them.  

There will be an airport reunion  with the daughter who moved to California two months ago and wasn't planning on coming home for the holidays until two weeks ago, when she changed her mind. I will cry before I see her, to know I'll see her.

There will be more than one meaningful conversation with another daughter and her husband about career dreams and marriage and life goals and raising children and other relationships, because they are artists, and artists are bad at talk that isn't about stuff that matters.

There will be attempts on the part of both of my sons to teach me about football again. It will start with the annual, remedial explanation of downs and yards which I will forget. It will end with diagrams on post-its of tiny figures and directional arrows which I will not understand but will save anyway to put with the others in a box near my bookcase.

And as this day fades into tomorrow, marking exactly one month since my father's death, I will focus on a memory I've gone back to a few times over the last four weeks. 

It was Dad's last Christmas Eve with us, his nineteenth.  At the end of the night, he said the same thing he said every year. "This was the best one ever. I don't think you can top it, next year."

In a few days, when Christmas is finally here and we raise a glass, I will think about that and offer a special toast to Dad, the best one ever. 

Happiest of holidays to you. Make them the best ever, surrounded by people who matter the most. 




  1. I think that there is something magical about the time of the solstice. It earmarks the same profound change I go through. The tree is up, cards are sent, and the manic rush for a Pinterest Christmas is over. Now is the time to settle in and begin to enjoy the Holiday.

    1. With you on that, Beth. For every thing I care less about each year, there is something or someone I care about more. Happy holidays to you, and thank you for visiting.

  2. Merry Christmas to my wonderful online friend! Enjoy your holidays and your family. xoxo

    1. Oh you, Sharon (who still looks like Helen Hunt from her Mad About You days. I've been meaning to tell you that since 2013) You're great, and I hope you have some outstanding holiday time with your loves.

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  4. You nailed it and so very eloquently! Today was the day, I said "No more. It is time to sit back and enjoy the holiday." And that's what I did. And now, after reading this, I have a feeling that I will feel the same about the 20th of December from now on. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    1. Thank you, Gigi. Isn't it nice, watching things fall off the list and adding things that you didn't plan?

  5. Susan, What a beautiful post. Got a little teary about your Dad. Sounds like something my dad would say. You're right. There's something magical about the days leading up to Christmas, like the world is holding its breath. Happy Holidays.

    1. Laurie, from your writing I know we share so many "takes" on things. I always like reading about your discoveries and changing opinions, and I appreciate your visits here very much.

  6. I am so thankful I discovered your blog this year, it grounds my heart somehow.

    1. K, thank you. That just means so much to me. The longer I live, the more I see that connection with just about everyone is possible on some level.