The holiday season–that busy stretch of weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year–is often filled with Comings and Goings. Someone traveling somewhere and remaining for a while. Guests. Visitors. We had many. Did you?
Here’s the thing about Comings and Goings: some are more welcome than others.
We definitely welcomed my parents.
They arrived the day before Christmas Eve and stayed for just over a week. In that window we took walks and ate lots, watched the third season of The Crown and then, hungry for more of England’s royal family, The Queen. We debated politics and theology; listened to Bach and Christmas carols; stayed up late and slept in; made, packaged and delivered Christmas cookies to the neighbors. My father repaired a faulty electrical socket in a bedroom and took lots of pictures. My mother did most of the laundry, cleaned up the kitchen, and played the piano.
It was lovely.
We also welcomed Shanna’s family.
Her parents and two siblings arrived December 20th and left January 2nd. They stayed with Will and Shanna, but we got to see lots of them nonetheless.
We celebrated Christmas Eve with them at Will and Shanna’s house. We celebrated Christmas Day with them at our house. And we celebrated New Year’s Eve together (plus three (most welcome) friends), eating raclette and playing games and finally ringing in 2020 outside at the firepit, where we toasted a new decade and then sang a hymn or two.
We welcomed Bill’s brother Ray, who came to us from Pittsburgh, and also his mother and brother, who live nearby.
All of these were Comings that were, as I said, Most Welcome.
But we also welcomed some Goings.
There was, for starters, the possum on our door step the night before Thanksgiving. Presumably lured by cheeses that cling to empty pizza boxes (stashed en route to the recycling bin), it was captured by my dog when I was heading out the door to borrow corn syrup from my neighbor.
Despite my dog’s having caught it in her teeth (I made her leave it); despite the possum’s proximity to a human’s front door; despite being a wild creature threatened by a dog keenly interested in catching it again, that possum remained. It played dead for hours on our top step, mostly obscured by the pile of empty boxes, but leaving exposed one tight claw and the sharp teeth that circled its open mouth.
We don’t know when it left, but were very pleased that it was gone in the morning.
The thing about Unwelcome Visitors, I’ve found, is that they don’t know when to leave– which was the case with the squirrel that, for a time, inhabited our Christmas tree.
When I awoke a few weeks before Christmas to hear it banging around in our breakfast room, I didn’t know it was a squirrel. I thought it was the cat (our cat doesn’t bang around) or the dog (who was lying on her bed). I certainly didn’t think it would be a wild animal, a squirrel caught in our many-windowed breakfast room. When I came upon it, still blurry with sleep, the squirrel was throwing itself against said windows, trying desperately to get outside.
I called the dog away from the room. And the cat. Then I called my husband. We opened doors and windows (outside it was 30-odd degrees and raining) and did all we could to usher the wild, frightened and somewhat bruised creature out of the house.
So it (logically) ran from breakfast room to living room and hid in the Christmas tree.
The sheriff wanted to carry the tree out and set it free. Durham’s answer (in this instance) to Animal Control, he wore boots and heavy gloves and had Squirrel-in-House Experience. But despite gentle prodding with our broom, the squirrel wouldn’t leave. Yes, it emerged a time or two and raced around, hiding temporarily under the sofa, threatening to go upstairs, and (always) missing the open doors that beckoned it outside. But every time it darted forth, it found its way back to the tree again.
In the end, the tree did not have to be carried out. The kindly sheriff kept at it until–in what was a third or fourth round of mayhem–we assume that it found a door.
We were Very Glad it went.
Yes, we had our share of comings and goings, of both the welcome and unwelcome variety. And we had one other: a Going-and-Coming, a Departure-and-Arrival. But it wasn’t an arrival here. It wasn’t a coming to us. It happened on Christmas Eve, but we didn’t see it.
On Christmas Eve, Emma and her team of nine left Kona, Hawaii for Athens, Greece. As we slept, as we celebrated Christmas, as we enjoyed the quiet Day After, Emma was flying halfway around the world.
She arrived in Athens on December 26th at 5 p.m., and she’ll be there for ten weeks, working with Youth With a Mission to serve refugees. These are people who know Going in ways I’ve never understood it: necessary, frightening, desperate. And their Coming to Greece, too, is likely full of fear. I’m hoping Emma and her friends can bring them some small relief.
We would have loved to have had her home for Christmas, but we’re so glad that she is where she is.
And when she gets home in March, we’ll be overjoyed to welcome her.
All photos by Richard Brewster with the exception of the above, which was sent to us: Emma playing guitar on Mars Hill in Athens.