Five days until Christmas day. The kitchen is silent but for the sighs of the dog splayed out on the floor next to me. Eve and Lola are upstairs, straightening up their rooms so that they can find a place for each and every new treasure they receive on Christmas Day. Eve cleans while belting out popular songs with no pretense. Lola stops every few items to crouch on the floor and read a few pages of a Calvin and Hobbes book.
The day outside is grey and misty and I'm determined to avoid the reality of winter in the Northwest by only gazing at the 4x4 photo of Dad sitting on the front porch with the girls as babies, squinting in the sunshine, his freckled legs showing in a rare moment when he wore shorts outside of the gym.
I feel as though I ought to be rushing around completing last-minute tasks, but all but one gift is wrapped and under the tree and I'm not baking any treats this year. We have deliberately scaled back gift-exchanges over the years in deference both to those who have more stuff than they know what to do with as well as those whose needs run to the more serious - like groceries and money to pay the heating bill. We still spoil the children and delight in odd gifts for each other here and there, but I'm thrilled to be part of the older generation now, my true delight in watching the children's eyes as they rip the glossy paper off of their presents.
More than anything I look forward to the gathering. The unexpected history shared after a few glasses of wine that sets everyone to hysterical laughter. The moment where the youngest child discovers the piano in the living room and the magical sounds it makes. The stolen moments on the couch where I pretend to be asleep and hear philosophical conversations between adolescents. For all of the hoopla around Christmas cookies and intricate wrapping methods and hours spent in the kitchen preparing the roast, I look to the next five days for rest and quiet spaces and spontaneous bursts of joy. For this, I wish Christmas came more than once a year.