On the TV, no good news, more talk of laws, and edicts and sanctions, not of the evil by whom we grant the title of man, only confirms its acceptance as darkness's delegate in the service of its actual master. Not now, not tonight, and I turn off the TV and turn on the Christmas lights.
As kids, we were quite inquisitive as to what was under the tree. When we were really small, we were told to leave the presents alone, no shaking, peeking or such. We mostly obeyed. Though one year, Mom sprayed the tree with that white flocking stuff, popular in the 60's and 70's. We were innocently playing on the floor with our toy tanks and GI Joes, a flurry of motion that in children and bad generals is often used in lieu of a plan, when Mom walked in.
"No Mom!" we proclaimed, feeling guilty even as the words came out of our mouths.
I still have the picture somewhere of the two of us there, our red hair covered in flocking, like a dusting of powdered sugar. BUSTED!.
Not looking too cranked about wearing a dress but the wagon is cool!
One never knows what is in that gift. What may seem to be without value at first may become your most prized possession.
Recently, I had custody of a shooting accessory that had been passed on from Tam for Mr. B. Since I drive by where he works on my commute home each weekend, I said I'd drop it off. Partner was in Indy as well that week, and offered to do it for me a little earlier. He put it in a small bag, and dropping it off at the business Mr. B owns, told the girl at the front desk (who knew something was being dropped off) with a sly grin "you don't need to feed it or anything, it should be fine in there".
But sometimes the best gifts are the least expected ones. Christmas for us was not a flurry of dozens and dozens of gifts, the kids tearing into them like sharks, tossing one new toy aside with barely a glance, and without a thank you, for the next. In our home, each gift was savored, opened deliberately, because we knew, with our family's budget, there would be only a few, and we wished to savor every moment of the unveiling.
But it did not prevent us from wanting. Those big shiny, expensive toys, that we were likely not to get. Our bikes were used, carefully picked up by Dad and refurbished; my clothes were handmade, or hand me down from my cousin Liz, two years older and about my build. But having such useful, warm things, didn't stop us from coveting something beyond our reach, the wanting so intense, that even if we had received it, it would never have satisfied that picture we built of it, there in that span between desire and possession.
But in the remembering, the coloring of the past by sound, movement, shape and taste, I am thankful. Because my parents didn't buy us everything we wanted, for then, we never would have appreciated what we had. And what we had was good. A dollhouse, Dad spent hours toiling in the night assembling, long after we were asleep. A chemistry set, that didn't just look colorful like the ones now, but would actually blow things up if you were stupid. There were balls and Frisbees, and one year, two skim boards to take to the ocean, where I first learned to fly at ground level.
Subsequent Christmases brought their own memories, as they do for many of of us, some good, some painful. After such times, it's easy to think we are no long capable of hoping, only of daring, Until one day, you realize, that for every Christmas there was only the solitude, that privacy you once coveted that you now found has become the most complete privacy of all, that solitude in which every man is born, and in which every man will die.
I glance at the little cheap plastic nativity scene and smile, as I put the gifts aside to make some bread, hands working rhythmically, bringing with it that peacefulness that is like watching machinery in motion. I'll work as I wait for a call from the other side of the world. In that call, in that connection, there lies here now, every good memory ever made, even if the form of them all is mostly dust.
We can't change our work schedules, we can't change how people treat us, we can't change evil that walks on two legs amongst us, stealing the most precious of things from us, any more than we can stop death from visiting our doorstop. We can only prepare, dare, and continue to hope.