Christmas'Eve


"Christmas will be here by then and a fat goose will be sputtering toward its eventual demise."

Christmas' Eves seem to meld into a single contiguous memory, overall indistinct. The traditions overlapping, sometimes contradictory, because everyone's in a blended family now, in-laws, out-laws, jurists, and priests. More a convergence than a celebration, another attempt to fit orthogonal expectations into a single place and time. I earlier spoke with my brother and he was expecting twenty. The Muse and I expect the usual two. We've hosted a few slightly larger gatherings since we left the hometown, so-called exile Christmases, but we usually settle on the same old two. I'm distracted writing my Christmas poems, so she takes the lead cooking something special. She decorates the tree which typically won't have any presents beneath it. Rose The Skittish Spinster Cat, under the weather this year, usually pokes around the edges, imprinting on one or more of the lower-hanging ornaments. The Nakamichi will knock out very traditional Christmas tunes, Rosemary Clooney and Barbra Streisand. A fire will warm the place.

This year, I finished writing my Christmas poems early, so I can take the evening off. I've spent so many Christmas Eves locked in mortal combat with the written word that I feel like an alien in my own home this evening.
I no longer hover over my workbench in the unheated garage while writing. I sit in my writing chair, feet up, fire near. I remember the early years when I'd mug for Santa's surveillance cameras, being just as good as I could be, hoping that the network didn't extend to the bathrooms when I'd pee. We'd usually head out as a family to look at Christmas lights (ooh, aah!), returning home well after dark to find that Santa had come and gone in our absence. (I later learned that a helpful neighbor would break out the gifts in our absence.) We'd gorge on the excess attention until way too late in the evening, the house bright and noisy.

We were all long past believing in Santa before we ever gave up the deception. Christmas Eve seems perfectly suited to deception. The gift hidden in the back of the closet that everyone knows is there but pretends they know nothing about. Even the neighbors in on the ploy. The toys were never quite what anyone wanted, but none of us ever knew how to respond to the question, "What do you want?" I always wanted whomever asked to stop asking me what I wanted. Want was one of those iffy concepts. Not like need, separate from in any way essential, wanting in our big family was seen as a form of self-centeredness, at attempted theft from the common. The Folks worked hard to instill a sense that none of us were particularly special, and wants grated on that complacency. Consequently, wants were secret desires, not the sort of things one should ever disclose. Besides, if another knew what I wanted, they'd have something to hang over me, wouldn't they?

So, Christmas Eve served as a convergence point, one where desire might find its public airing, one where generosity might receive its annual public showing. We had plenty, make no mistake, and nobody ever received a can of beans they were expected to exhibit public gratitude for proving worthy to receive. We were little venial hobgoblins, swarming around the tree, entirely focused upon me, me, me for a brief spree before the loot was throughly catalogued and we retired to our beds. We each heard our share of reindeer paws on the roof, and would freely insist this happened, even to this day. The magic of Christmas Eve gave way to the boredom of Christmas Day as the new started wearing off. A few of the more treasured gifts would be prominently displayed beneath the tree until at least late on Christmas Day. By then, my mom was bored with the business and wanted that stuff moved so the vacuum could clean up the space.

Days of sometimes frantic preparation culminated in a brief but intense engagement. Almost all of the frenzy misses us now. Yesterday, The Muse had proposed going down to The Mall, but lost her stomach for the tour before we'd left the drive. Instead, we strolled down the main street of our little town, peeking into little shops and poking around, buying nothing, seeing nothing that seemed to need buying. We stopped by a supermarket, but only to buy some cleaning supplies. I understood that we were fixing to make a mess, mostly in the kitchen, and at some point the quality of our whole celebration would very likely reduce to the ready availability of steel wool pads. The goose will be about 90% grease, about half of which will deposit itself on surfaces needing subsequent cleaning. We exchange food and wine these days spent so far away from friends and family. Santa will still visit, redepositing into our carefully hung stockings those enormous Christmas oranges we both know were here before he came and The Muse will find a freshly printed poem in her sock, one probably celebrating that she's still present, and we'll go on from there. Christmas will be here by then and a fat goose will be sputtering toward its eventual demise.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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