I’ll wait until October….


(Scrooge played by Alistair Sim and the Ghost of Christmas past play by Michael Dolan / 1951)

For all intense purposes…the calendar date reads December 6th—well past October.
But this was my lament and statement back in say, June…

“I’ll wait until October”

Let’s back up a tad…

At the end of spring and the start of summer, we had finally decided to “makeover” two
of the three bedrooms upstairs that were long in need of redoing.

The third room that was already up to speed, is our guest bedroom.
A room that we had lovingly dubbed “Martha’s room”
as it was where my aunt would stay when she’d come to visit.

Of the other two rooms–one had been out son’s room.
A room he vacated, for all intent purposes, in say…2007…upon high school
graduation.

He occasionally returned throughout college for a few extended stints
before heading off to a fraternity house and later various apartments…and blessedly
basically forever upon graduation.

He is now married for almost 6 years, with two kids…
I think we were safe and in the clear for changing out the room.

However, that’s not to say that the door doesn’t always remain open should a need ever arise…
but it’s just that the content is now drastically and delightfully altered
as the room has been brought up to speed.

The other room had been pretty much a catch-all for things such as a
weight machine (something our son never seemed to think much of in order
to take it with him when he finally moved out–sigh),
along with boxes and boxes of files that had been dad’s world, of which I inherited
when he was no longer able to care for himself.

So my husband and I discarded, sorted, thrashed, regrouped all the stuff that was to
stay and all the stuff that was to go, turning that last room into a lovely home office of sorts.

However, it now irks my husband to no end that I went to a great deal of trouble,
not to mention expense, decorating and arranging with some wonderful old pieces
I’d found, just to simply continue using the kitchen table for my “workspace.”

He, on the other hand, uses the office religiously.

When he retired, he was accustomed to having had an office.
A place where he kept his files, bills, notices and where he sat down
to pay bills and do paperwork.

On the other hand, as a teacher, I was used to simply grabbing space at a clean table.
Hence, my affinity for the kitchen table.
I also like the wall of windows in the kitchen which provides ample light.
Much like my classroom use to provide.

I did have an “office” but “the office” consisted of a computer table with the bulk of the
room being, more or less, storage space and where we housed the kiln.
I, therefore, preferred the open space of the classroom.

For a while, following dad’s slow demise, my home “workspace” was moved to the dining room
table as the papers and boxes were growing exponentially and the kitchen was simply not the place.
Following dad’s death and the gutting of the two rooms, I moved dad and my
“stuff” to the new office.

Since the closets in those two made-over rooms were now basically gutted,
I thought I would store a few of my more cherished and ancient family Christmas ornament
boxes in the two vacated closets.

“Get them out of the attic,” I told myself.
The summer heat, in a house’s attic in Georgia, is deathly.
The winter is equally as harsh.
Not the place to store things of “treasure” but sometimes
that’s all one has.

The boxes contained much loved and long passed down ornaments.
With each ornament telling a story.

One box contained the porcelain Christmas angels and tiny nutcrackers I’d been
collecting since I was in high school.
Gifts along with those offered by long-gone family members.
Boxes that always quickened my heart each Christmas when I brought
them out to the tree.

I thought the move out of the attic would help their survival.

HA!

Do we call that the best-laid plans…????

Almost as soon as I moved the boxes to the closet, I placed one on a shelf
in order to come back when I’d next move in a few more, allowing for me to
rearrange my sorting.

Suddenly, there was a loud crash.

UGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!

Before even looking, I knew.

Sure enough, the porcelain angel box was on its side as pieces of angels were
strewn across a closet floor.

I opted to play Scarlett–for tomorrow would be another day…


(Scarlett following Rhett’s departure / Gone With The Wind / 1939)

I uprighted the box, scooped up all the pieces, dumping them back in the box,
all willy nilly, and closed the top…
I stopped long enough to announce aloud to no one but myself,
I’ll worry about this little disaster in October.

The small disaster was more than I could deal with or bear that day.
Or seemingly any day thereafter.
I dreaded what I would find and I dreaded the meticulous gluing that would ensue.

Well as time past, I kept reminding myself about October.

July came and went.
August came and went.
September came and went.
October…came and went.
November came and went.
December is here.

I have decided there will be no tree this year.
The first treeless Christmas in 60 years of my life.

Nor is the manger scene box unpacked or moved from the closet.

It’s not so much over the broken bits and pieces of my Christmases past but
really because the kids won’t be able to come home before
Christmas comes and goes as both work and other demands of time will keep them away.

The plan is that we will go up on Christmas Eve to spend the night.
And I’ll go up in about a week to get the kids and help out at home.

The tree is a pain to haul up from the basement–it’s large and cumbersome.
The decorating requires various ladders.
Not to mention the hauling of the ornament boxes down from upstairs.

The fluffing of the tree, the sorting, and unpacking of the ornaments—
only to turn around and pack it all right back up.

A friend of my husband’s had offered to help him haul up the tree but I told him
not to worry.

“I don’t think we’ll put up the tree this year.”
“But why?” he implored.
“Because no one will be coming home, it’ll be just us.”
“Well, the two of you can enjoy it”
“Well, it’s an awful lot of work for just two people to stare at.”

Maybe it’s the melancholy of the season.
Maybe it’s the fact that the house will be quiet.
Maybe it’s the fact that we’re both a little older.
Maybe it’s the lunacy griping our Nation.
The country is being railroaded and no one seems able to stop the madness.
Maybe I’m simply tired.

The jury is still out, but I’m pretty certain there will be no tree…

One day, some cold rainy day, I’ll pull out that box of
debris and start gluing things back together…

But for now…I did at least manage to get the lights and decorations up outside…
so no one passing by the house is any the wiser that on the inside,
only the stockings are hung by the chimney with care.

Oh and by the way, my son stole the stockings I had made for his little crew…
they’ve been spirited off to Atlanta only to hang on the same mantle
my stocking once hung…
So the stockings I’ve hung are quite the hodgepodge.

Hummmmm…
maybe Ebenezer was right, “wouldn’t it be better if I just
went home to bed?”


(Alistair Sim

Ebenezer : [to the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come]
I am standing in the presence of the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come?
And you’re going to show me the shadows of things that have not yet happened but will happen?
Spirit of the Future, I fear you more than any spectre I have met tonight! But even in my fear,
I must say that I am too old! I cannot change! I cannot! It’s not that I’m inpenitent,
it’s just… Wouldn’t it be better if I just went home to bed?

“Our freedom always has this marvelous power to make what is taken from us—by life,
events, or other people—into something offered. Externally there is no visible difference,
but internally everything is transfigured: fate into free choice, constraint into love,
loss into fruitfulness. Human freedom is of absolutely unheard-of greatness.
It does not confer the power to change everything,
but it does empower us to give a meaning to everything, even meaningless things;
and that is much better. We are not always masters of the unfolding of our lives,
but we can always be masters of the meaning we give them.
Our freedom can transform any event in our lives into an expression of love,
abandonment, trust, hope, and offering.”

Fr. Jacques Philippe, p. 58
An Excerpt From
Interior Freedom

The Aftermath

“Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue? What’s happened to the world?”
A great Shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land; and as he listened the thought came to Sam that he had not heard laughter, the pure sound of merriment, for days upon days without count.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien

DSCN8839
(the remnants–boxes, torn paper, ribbons and trash / Julie Cook / 2014)

Do you hear that?
It’s the loud collective release of breath from what has been the building up to and of a wealth of emotions. . .
Excitement
Anticipation
Joy
Frustration
Disappointment
Impatience
Elation
Melancholy
Exhaustion
Expectancy

As each emotion is somewhat dependent upon one’s age and stage of life, one may have more invested in the frenzies verses the weariness of this thing and time we call Christmas, coupled with what others call Hanukah.

It’s been a month long whirlwind of highs and lows and everything in between.
Visits to Santa
Elves on shelves
The lighting of candles, both Menorahs and Advent wreathes
Cooking
Cleaning
Shopping
Wrapping
Partying
Eating
Visiting
Traveling

And today, Boxing Day in both the UK and Canada, a day after, a day of leftovers and has beens, we enter the time known as the “aftermath”

It is a time when we find ourselves feeling. . .
blue,
sad,
letdown,
weary,
tired,
depressed,
thankful,
wistful,
and longing for something we can’t quite put our fingers on.

It is now time to decompress from the overload of being wound tight as a top for a solid month.
The window of merriment and break-neck speed living, which started in late November with Thanksgiving and will culminate, realistically, on January 2nd. When life as we know it, resumes and gets back under way.
Back to work
Back to home
Back to school
Back to the daily grind of life.

The giving and receiving is coming to a halt.
The hysteria of shopping lingers with the “after” sales.
The time of transition is once again at hand.

It’ll take some time.
Time to. . .
repack
unpack
move to storage
return to the stores
reclean the mess
reset the schedule
follow the new resolutions
settling back in to the routine. . .
finding a groove once again

Take time to be. . .
good to yourself,
good to others,
Continue to keep a spirit of. . .
gratitude,
anticipation,
expectancy,
peace,
joy,
giving,
kindness,
thoughtfulness. . .

Take a deep breath and move forward.
Slowly at first, then a quicker step will most certainly be soon to follow.
And just soon enough, before you even know it, all that now seems like a letdown, leftover, and somewhat sad will be coming untrue. . .as your heart will be full, happy, and content, as you continue as you have, to focus on others and of their wellbeing rather than your own. . .
Because isn’t that what this time is really all about—the joy of the giving of ourselves to others, just as the wee babe came into this world to give himself to us. . .

The stories as told by a tree

“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”
T.S. Eliot

DSCN2889
(ariel view looking down on the tree and boxes of ornaments / Julie Cook / 2013)

I hope everyone had a very nice Christmas–despite the wicked weather and UPS delays. . .

It seems that life here was so hectic leading up to Christmas Day that my memory of it all is now but a mere blur. People came, they ate, they slept, they ate, they exchanged gifts, they ate some more—then they departed. Now more people are coming today. . . where there will be, no doubt, more eating, sleeping, eating, gift giving, eating, shopping, football, eating, celebrating, eating, then departing sometime next week. Whew!

In between the shifts of company coming and going, I have worked feverishly to purge my house of Christmas. My mother always said you couldn’t carry anything from the old year into the new year so all Christmas decorations–the tree, the lights, etc, must be down and packed away all before New Year’s eve.

I worked like a crazy person on “Boxing Day”–boxing up, packing away, hauling up and down steps, carrying out to the trash.. . yet another Christmas. As “my people” never seem to be home when it’s time to decorate or time to take down, I become a one woman demolition team. It also doesn’t help that I really don’t like my world being turned upside down with the rearranging, moving, adding and taking away which results from decorating for a holiday. I like my world just so.

As it came time for me to dismantle the tree (and yes, our’s is a live tree), I couldn’t help feeling a bit wistful as well as somewhat nostalgic–even as I lugged all of the ornaments boxes, once again, out of the attic, spreading them out all over the floor. I’m not one of those people who creates a “themed” tree. Our tree is a hodge lodge tree full of ornaments dating back to a sunday school class in 1963 when I was a little girl—the ornaments create a bit of a time-line, moving forward through college, on to the ornaments of the newly married followed by the ornaments of our son as a baby then as a little boy coming to now, with an engaged couple ornament. There are the ornaments from various travels and those of various countries. There are the ornaments from my students throughout the years and the cherished ornaments from friends. . .

It seems each ornament has a story. There is the nutcracker ornament my dad gave me shortly after mother died. I had collected nutcrackers when I was a young girl as Santa would bring me a beautifully painted German nutcracker each Christmas– Dad carried on the tradition when I was older by giving me a nutcracker ornament.

I found myself a little sad yesterday as I reached for my nutcracker ornament, gently lifting him from the tree then tenderly placing him in his designated place in the ornament box— thinking about Dad when he actually “thought”–unlike Christmas Day this year when he was just a shell of his former self as my stepmother recounted trough tears the ordeal of dad having lost the car keys this past week—thankfully no, he’s no longer driving–but hence the debacle of his having lost the keys that he doesn’t even use. . .

There are the ornaments that were a part of the trees from throughout my childhood. They are, to me, mother’s ornaments which now tie a piece of her to my own trees and of my life today. There are her little porcelain British regiment soldiers whose heads I have to glue back on year after year. There are even the little glass santa snowmen with the goggly eyes that were actually my grandmothers–and the painted easter eggs that belonged to my other grandmother.

There are the ornaments that various students have given me over the years. As I remove each ornament, I can remember each student as if I’m suddenly being transported to the very spot in the classroom or office when I first opened the gaily wrapped package each student proudly presented. It’s not as common for high schoolers to give their teachers gifts–therefore making each received present truly special and one of a kind. I can recall each face as I gently lift the various balls and figures from the tree.

There are the nativity scene ornaments which my godparents gave me when I was in high school. I cherished those ornaments all those many years ago, so proud that they had thought of me. He was the dean of a massive Episcopal Cathedral so for me to have received such a remembrance was always extra special.

There is the collection of the porcelain angels, with one being what a friend gave me following the death of my brother. There are the beautifully fragile glass Santas, the hand carved birds from Vermont. . .and there are the two tongue depressors turned snowmen that at first glance look quite cheap and homemade and yet they tell quite a story.

I actually first came about my life here in Carrollton by way of another teacher who, at the time, I did not know. She had decided to call it quits mid year in 1982. She was the art teacher of the local high school here and was married to one of the history teachers. She had decided to leave mid year in order to go back to school at the University of Georgia to further her degree. I was the young, freshly graduated, college kid from Atlanta who was hired as the replacement. Eventually I would make the school and the community my home and my life for 31 years.

When her two sons were little boys she was the type of mom who believed that the boys should make their own spending money even at the ripe old age of 7. One Christmas the youngest boy wanted some lego kits. In order to make some spending money she had him make Christmas ornaments. After school, one afternoon, she escorted him from classroom to classroom selling his tongue depressor snowmen. I felt rather sorry for him as he was so quiet and shy, whereas she was rather flamboyant and quite “artsy”— I bought 2 at a $1.00 a piece.

Several years following the sale of snowmen, she was diagnosed with cancer. She raged a valiant fight, but the battle proved too much. She departed this life leaving behind her then teenaged sons and their dad, a very distraught husband and father. A couple of years ago, just prior to my retiring, I finally told my colleague, her widowed husband, the story of the tongue depressors and how, to now honor his wife, each year I place the snowmen in a prominent position on our tree. With tears flowing down his face, he simply hugged me. That seems like such a long time ago.

Each year as I put up the tree, only to be followed by the taking down of the tree, I am constantly reminded of what was—for happy or sad. I am glad to have a tree that tells a story—and delightfully it is a continuous story. There is indeed a beginning, but thankfully, there is no end as it is a constant continuum–with each year building upon the previous year.

Throughout the long year, from Christmas to Christmas, there are adventures that usually witness the procuring of some new trinket intended for a future tree. These mementos are squirreled away until the designated time when they are pulled out of drawers and cabinets, gently unpacked and placed alongside their fellow trinkets, doodads, figures and balls— adding to the continued story of a single family who travels along together on the continuum of a life, for good or bad, inextricably linked forever by a life forged by those who went before us and only to be continued by those who follow suit. The story of a family, as told by a tree. . .