Everett came into the kitchen yesterday and said, “I’m sad Christmas is over.”
And it is. Suddenly. Our tree is still up, some decorations still out, but Everett is right. Everyone is back to work or school, and yesterday my parents went on their way. So now–for real and for true–we seemed to have turned the page to January.
And yet, one street away from us, neighbors have pumpkins on their front steps: three of the standard orange and one white and squat.
I get it. I absolutely do. For me, 2018 flew by, and the months between the autumn and winter holidays were like something out of L’Engle’s tesseract: for all I know, someone took the corner of October first and bent it right into December and voila! Christmas is over and Everett’s birthday, too, and we’ve celebrated the New Year to boot. Spit spot! (That’s Mary Poppins).
As we drove past the pumpkin neighbors, Bill (who will be taking down our outdoor Christmas decorations this afternoon) explained it to me. “We don’t get any practice for this,” he said. “Between October and December we have so much to decorate for, but for the rest of the year, no one cares.” He’s right. You can have anything–or nothing–decorating your front steps the rest of the year. But come September it’s pumpkins or nothing, and within weeks, pumpkins are all wrong.
Not that anyone’s judging.
I’m certainly not. I feel like the last three months of the year are a bit of a scramble for lots of reasons. First of all, I am not a good plan-ahead gal. I know lots of people who do their Christmas shopping year round, people who write out menus and buy ingredients in November (because they’re on sale) for things they’ll bake the next month. I have nothing but admiration for them.
But (and despite being a mother for over twenty years), I feel like I’m just beginning to learn that Christmas and the other holidays are actually annual events, and I have no excuse but to be better prepared. At the very least, I would be wise to spread the shopping out over the last several months of the year.
The truth is more fundamental, though: I’m just not a special events kind of person. That isn’t to say I don’t love them: I do. But event planning is not my thing on lots of levels. I thrive in the everyday, in the routine and normalcy that give me room to think, and in the slower rhythms that allow for emotional quiet. Those are the spaces that allow me to write.
Boring. So boring.
So here we are in January, and Everett may be sad about it, but I’m not. I’ll take the new calendar, all blank squares and black lines. I’ll take the swept front steps, too. And I’ll take (yes, please) the empty trees, their trunks and branches limned in sunlight, and the sound the wind makes as it rushes through them.
My grandmother taught me to love the empty trees. “When they’ve lost their leaves,” she would say, “we can see their shapes.”
There’s much to be said for the shape of a tree. And there’s much to be said for clear eyes and clean views and, yes, fresh beginnings.
Welcome, January. I’ll take your openness and your emptiness: all of that quiet possibility.