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A Forward-Looking Christmas


Christmas is coming a little late here. Christmas won’t entirely arrive, in fact, until a week from today–by order of the Lord of This Particular Castle. To avoid having our lower level out of commission until the vernal equinox, Carol and I have been furiously shopping for carpeting and slobbering paint-color samples on the walls, and getting estimates from painters and carpet layers. We lacked time and (especially) energy to mount a real Christmas tree, and when I went downstairs to hunt up my Lionel trains, I found that a couple of key boxes were blocked in behind all the other boxes of miscellany I had to pack up to prepare for the mudjacking. So no trains either.

This is why you haven’t seen much from me recently. We’ve done a lot of remodeling in our lives and always hated it. By the end of the day I’ve been in no fit mood to write much of anything at all. Carol and I have mostly sat on the couch covered with bichons while the smoke stopped pouring out of our ears.

We did spend Christmas Proper with a few close friends, but almost entirely avoided the six weeks of furious tearing around that a conventional Christmas seems to require. In doing so, I had an insight: Christmas as it has come down to us is almost entirely a backward-looking holiday. By 3 PM on Christmas day, the radio stations are playing colorless pop music again, and the wrapping paper has mostly been shoveled into the recycle bin. It’s over. All around the country, I can imagine exhausted Christmasers falling into their LaZBoy chairs and pondering the madness that has just concluded: endless mall-crawling, cranky relatives, dissatisfied toddlers, overly ambitious Christmas parties and dinners, toys that failed to assemble correctly, cakes that failed to rise, cookies that caramelized without benefit of caramel, and the supicious whiff of dog pee on the tree stand. In most years I can deal with all of that, even if, yes, I’m worn out when it’s over.

Not this year.

Christmas for us began on Christmas Eve. It will continue until the Feast of the Three Kings on January 6, a date my mother always called “Little Christmas.” I will play our Christmas CDs, put egg nog in my coffee, and keep the embargo on sugar lifted until that day. I will reflect that most of what I have ever wanted is already my own: mind, means, mettle, a soulmate who has stood beside me for 42 years, four great dogs, three thousand books, a unique moment in history, and all the tube sockets I could ever use. (Hair, meh. It just gums up the sink.) Carol and I will revel in the peace and quiet that began to reign at 3 PM on December 25th, and make a point of consciously reveling in that peace and quiet until, well, something else noisy and unavoidable rises out of the mist. We will look forward to it. Forward, in expectation. Not backward, in exhaustion.

Merry Christmas, all of you. Stay alive. Stay in touch. Don’t look back.


  1. David Stafford says:

    Merry Christmas to you, Carol and the bichons!

  2. Tom R. says:

    In that case Merry Epiphany/Christmas Jeff.

    I was struck most strongly by the rapid transition from Christmas to “what’s next” when I went into a local discount store this past Wednesday and the large section that had been Christmas decorations and paraphernalia was in the process of being transformed into their spring gardening and outdoor living area. Even this far south we still have the heart of winter to go through before the first hint of spring.

  3. Joe Flamini says:

    Hear, Hear! Well said, as usual…….

  4. Tony says:

    Merry Christmas, both big and little.

    My wife and I tried to get each other gifts and in the end, it was almost all returned. It was not the lack of trying, just the unsuitability of the gifts for the needs purchased. I am beginning to think that next year we just need to love each other more and not worry about material possessions.

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