I wrote this post during the late night hours of December 26. After having the following conversation with my editor, I knew I was trying to push this post out too quickly. So you’ll have to stretch your mind and pretend it’s actually this past Wednesday evening.
Conversation with my editor concerning this post:
Me: I don’t do it that way. It doesn’t matter whether I use the little dash or the big dash.
Editor: Yes, it does. You’re doing it wrong. You need to use the em dash.
Me: I don’t care. That’s not the way I do it. I’ve never used a big dash. [Who knew the big dash is called “em dash” anyway?]
Editor: I’m going to look it up.
Silence for several minutes while I continue putting the dishes away and Editor reads the computer screen.
Me: Are you going to tell me “I told you so” now?
Editor: Not yet. (but-it’s-coming tone of voice)
Editor proceeds to read me several paragraphs of grammatical jargon, and I still stubbornly refuse to use the em dash even though I know I should. I lay down on the floor, unable to process anymore.. Time for bed!
My apologies for my grievous misuse of “-”in my past posts. I admit I’m wrong according to MLA. Now onto the actual post written on December 26…
Such a bittersweet day. Yes, it’s the day after Christmas, but we’re not experiencing the post-Christmas blues yet. To be perfectly honest, due to our packed! family/friend-get-together schedule from December 22nd through 25th, we haven’t opened the gifts under our tree, so we’re still anticipating more excitement and fun headed our way, thus staving off the post-Christmas blues. (We did peek in our stockings on Christmas morning during the less than 1.5 hours we were home, but that was all the kids wanted to do.) Even this morning, no one asked to open gifts, so Daniel and I decided to wait another day setting Thursday as the target date for gifts.
Today started out sweetly enough by sleeping in and then snow beginning to fall around 10:30am; of course the kids were excited. “Can we go outside to play?” they wanted to know by 11am. “Let’s wait until there’s a little more snow on the ground, hopefully after lunch,” I told them. By the time lunch was over, snow was covering most of the grass, and snow boots and pants came out of the closet and engulfed little bodies, shaking with excitement. Both children were ready to try out the green saucer I bought last winter, the one we never got to use because the snow was finished for the season by the time we bought it. The kids were dressed, out the door, and down our backyard hill before I could find my own snow gear and camera in order to capture their first-ever sled rides.
We live halfway up a rather large hill. Over the years I’ve become increasingly annoyed at our situation on this hill; our backyard is, of course, definitely a hill. Overnight camping in the yard isn’t very comfortable; the same goes for picnicking. We’ve actually taken to spreading a blanket on our driveway to keep from feeling like we’re tumbling head over heels down the hill while trying to eat. It’s hard to garden because of water run-off. One of the worst parts about living on a hill is that every run ends with running up hill to get to our house. However, today I found one good reason to enjoy our hill: the kids had a blast sledding, something I could never do in my own backyard growing up.
The kids took turns with the saucer as single riders and also riding together. Laughter, giggles and howls filled the air until Ian’s cough, aggravated by the cold air, drove him inside (or was it the excitement of continuing his play with his new crane truck?). Alice and I moved to the driveway, extending the hill even more, although the natural slope of the hill landed Alice in a forsythia bush at the bottom of our property, much to her surprise. I even took a spin on the saucer, bailing before the forsythia bush—so much fun!
We enjoyed the day… the slow pace of naps, writing thank you notes for our Christmas loot from extended family, eating macaroni and cheese (a family favorite), playing Memory and Uno, rearranging our advent nativity scene, topped off with a visit from my brother-in-law in the evening.
But it all took a quick turn as I flopped down on the couch after my brother-in-law left, and I opened my computer to read an email from a close friend. The words “best case scenario…. stage 3 cancer” stabbed through the sweetness of the day, like a knife in my heart; and I tried not to think about the incredible consequences of the doctor’s words, clinging instead, as she does, to the shred of hope that it’s all a huge mistake. In a daze of shock, I sat and thought about her life changed forever in one “non-significant” instant of thinking she had the flu or some other inconsequential virus. Then my thoughts shifted to parents in Connecticut who never dreamt they would spend this Christmas aching to hold their child, willing to give anything for just another moment. I wept for so many people, those that I love dearly and those I do not even know.
In my selfishness, I was glad I had given my day to my kids for the most part, making memories and steeping them in love. I know I’ve written about this before (maybe ad nauseam), but again I’m struck by the fact that we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. “Wake up,” I said to myself. “This is not a dress rehearsal for your life.” Christmas of 2012 has been bittersweet for me and many others. Events both near and far away have tinged this season of joy with a sadness that has often threatened to suffocate my laughter and peace. I will not sermonize about making each day count by loving others as I have done in the past, but my hope is that I continue to learn to cherish and treasure the relationships I have been granted. They are indeed a gift—perhaps the best gift of Christmas.