‘Twas the night after Christmas and all through the house…
Who am I kidding? I can’t sustain this without bending words and faking rhymes, and besides, I don’t want to. (One privilege of aging is to own up when you don’t want to do something.)
What I do want to do is say is that as lovely as this Christmas was, on Dec. 26th I wasn’t quite ready to move on. Ten minutes after Halloween, stores put out Christmas decorations and start stocking shelves with holiday merchandise, so why, once Christmas comes, would we be in a hurry to abandon the holiday?
As is my habit, I’d finished the little Christmas shopping I do by Thanksgiving, and a few days later, I addressed cards to friends I would not see over the holiday. A week later, I mailed the cards and three packages, which probably annoys the recipients, but I choose not to stand in line at the post office in December. Ever. (Though deadline writing still thrills me, deadline living does not.)
One evening, I streamed Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” as I wrapped gifts, a tradition in my house. I know this music and love it, but every note also brings to mind “The Madcracker,” a glorious parody put on by a modern dance company a long time ago. Because the artistic director first devised the show at my dining room table one Sunday afternoon, I got to be in the show, even when it toured the Midwest!
For eight years, each December I took time off from my job as a newspaper reporter, dressed up as the nymph Voluptua and tap danced (well, sort of) in the show, always illustrating more chutzpah than talent. Spending time in the company of Real Dancers was wonderful, and we’ve remained friends to this day.
This year, my holiday agenda included no costumes or musical cues. Because of COVID-19, big parties still were not on my schedule, though I did attend one very small (but quite festive) lunch the first week of December. Judy and I met up at my friend Susan’s house, where we ate take-out from a favorite upscale Mexican place and drank ginger beer punctuated with cranberries. The following week, I attended the holiday dinner held for residents of my apartment building. To take advantage of good ventilation, I sat about six feet away from the open door.
The third week of December, I traveled across the Bay Bridge to a liquidation warehouse, where I bought a fancy desk chair (gently used) that already has improved my posture and eased some lower back pain. (Thank you, defunct corporate offices in San Francisco that have flooded such warehouses with fine chairs that I can afford!)
On Christmas Eve, fully masked and accompanied by a boy I know, I took in “A Christmas Carol” at the regional theater. Watching, as always I delighted in the Fezziwigs’ party and wished I could hang out with Christmas Present, the most entertaining of the visiting spirits. Back at home later, I polished off the last of the home-baked, beautifully decorated cookies, a gift from my friend Julia.
And still there were more lovely moments to come! On Christmas Day, I enjoyed a delicious, low-key dinner at my son and daughter-in-law’s house, where I spent part of the time relaxing in my grandmother’s golden oak rocker. Short on space at my place when I moved to San Francisco, I gave it to the kids, and it looks great in their living room. Back at my place later, I re-read all the cards and admired the gifts I’ve received — and Christmas 2022 was over.
Well, not quite.
Years ago, a friend and I used to hit the stores on Dec. 26 to scoop up after-Christmas bargains — mostly red and green invitations, cups, plates and napkins for her big annual soiree the following year. Of course, we had lunch out, made a nice day of it. This year, I spent 15 minutes online to order a handful of fancy holiday bags for half price, and then I put away my presents. I heated and ate leftovers from Christmas dinner. I lighted my new candle that was supposed to smell like a pine forest but smells like a bland soy candle.
Then I settled in to see what the TV had to offer.
VOILA: an unexpected gift! Over Thanksgiving, a cable channel aired all seven seasons of “The West Wing,” maybe my favorite series ever, and now the shows were on again!
In November, I’d watched a few episodes and recorded a few, but missed much of the first season. I grabbed the remote and tuned in just in time to record “In Excelsus Deo,” the moving Christmas show from the first season in 1999. If you missed it, find the show and watch it.
Later, I realized I’d not yet honored a personal tradition. Every year, I read my favorite story of the season: Truman Capote’s “A Christmas Memory.” I’m cutting this short to go do that now. As I often do, I will stop just before the boy gets sent to military school and sadness ensues. If you don’t know the book, it’s not too late to pick up a copy and spend time in the presence of Capote, a literary master.
The new year approaches — and by Saturday, I’ll be ready to let go of Christmas 2022. Happy New Year, one and all!