The day after finishing finals and projects, the mid-morning sun seems brighter than it has for a while. The bus in front of me on the road is dingy with gray splashes from melted snow. The ad on the back is a warm blue sky and white sand stretching far as the eye can see, and the people on it are tanned and beautiful, looking contentedly out toward the water as they lay sunning. I am stuck behind the bus for two miles; there is no passing. I have made the mistake of trying to do my bit of holiday shopping quite late. When I finally reach the store, people wander, saunter, and stumble and barrel through the crowded aisles with a myriad of facial expressions: tension, worry, bewilderment, manic fervor and exhaustion. I feel like I am already in a relatively surreal movie.
O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel….I sing to myself, dodging the carts and wandering somewhat aimlessly.
I survive shopping unscathed and throw bags in my dirty car that already looks like I’ve been camping out in it for a while: down comforter in back waiting to be taken to the cleaners, various dishes and coffee cups, mail, books, and a box containing two orphaned china dolls who await a new home. The decorations strung over the road all down Delmar glisten and sparkle. They beckon me to re-enact George Bailey’s crazy run through the snow-drifted streets, yelling with grace-inspired fervor: “Merry Christmas, everyone! Merrrrrrry Christmas!”
Back home as dusk arrives. It is warm and dry from the quietly clanking radiators. The metro passes behind the house with a whoosh and clack. The tree is apparently worried that she will not get enough attention and consistently drops needles every few minutes, or anytime someone walks in the apartment upstairs, or anytime we come within a few feet of her. She’s a sensitive lass. We love her and water her, but she is still a bit temperamental. Our homemade ornaments hang from ever sparser branches, and it is mostly endearing with an ounce of pitiful thrown in, just for my old sentimental soul. Our very own Charlie Brown Christmas, as others
are celebrating as well.
Later in the evening, we gather as a small community to practice advent. We have supper together. We read the scriptures aloud, we sing the familiar songs to the accompaniment of guitar and mandolin. The little ones shake maracas and beat drums to the upbeat songs, and they dance with twirls and flourishes as a grand finale for Silent Night. As the last notes resound, the spunky one pipes up a rather unanticipated: "I'm amaaaaaaazing!", topping her announcement off with one last giggly twirl.
After chatting and moseying on our ways, friends gather at the pub. Upstairs sipping pints at the long, heavy table, some of us secretly wish we really lived in the shire. There is laughter, there are stories, and there is even a bit of singing.
At midnight, I emerge from the smoky upstairs to meet eyes with other revelers downstairs, push through the door and into the cold, rainy night feeling disconnected, tired, and assaulted by the damp, frigid air. Home again, I collapse into bead and open to the turned down page, filling my head with Caspian, meals of apples and camp-outs in ancient ruins of castles. It is a delicious thing to be able to read whatever you want in bed, surrounded by a sea of pillows and blankets. Very late, just when I begin to think the city has muted and is ready to hibernate too, a car drives by with the bass pumping, rattling my windows. I look sleepily toward the twinkling lights and smile just a bit as the black and white pictures of a snow covered city fill my dreams.
Merry almost Christmas.