December 25, 2005
I am about to violate one of my rules of writing and use a quotation whose source I can’t verify and whose author I can’t learn anything else about.
Christmas—that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance, a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.
— Augusta E. Rundel
I saw that today on another Holidailies site, Nikki’s Kiss My Grits. A Google search on Augusta E. Rundel returned nearly a thousand hits. The first two pages appeared to be collections of quotations, and the several that I clicked just had the same words and the same author’s name, so I didn’t drill down farther. Who is Augusta E. Rundel, I wanted to know, and why is she qualified to say something about Christmas?
But I liked the sentiment, and in the end decided that the only qualification one needs in order to say something about Christmas is to have experienced it.
We had our day of prayer yesterday. Lynn got teary early in the service. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Brandi,” she whispered. And so I thought about Brandi too, and Mr. Rosenthal, whom we lost a year and a week later, and my mother-in-law who died in August, and the five high school classmates who passed away this year, before we have even turned 60. We don’t feel sad because somebody’s not here this Christmas, we feel sad because they once were. Even if we never actually saw them at Christmas, they were part of our lives, and now they’re not, or are part of it differently, and we can’t go back to that other time.
Our feasting was today, just the three of us. We had filet mignon so tender a fork went through it like butter, and a baked potato. (I had a green salad planned, too, but nobody really wanted it.) Since that was a whole new Christmas menu, I decided to do something else new for dessert. In honor of the first night of Hanukkah I made latkes with a three-apple salsa for topping. I thought about my mother’s sand tarts and the cookbook she gave me in 1970 and the New Year’s Eve meal I had that year in The Library restaurant in Denver, Colorado with a man I thought had taken me on a romantic getaway but who really had just wanted to get out of this town the week the One True Love of his life was getting married to somebody else. I thought about Shawn, a former student (and Virtual Son) with whom I used to share soft pretzels and fruit in my classroom and whose face has not been seen in this place since 1994, and Larry, and the countless others I could paste links to, some still living and some not, whose presence runs through these pages, some memory of them triggered by some random happening in my life.
Later we all three sat on the couch and watched “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” as we did so many Sunday nights when Lynn was little. One of the hapless souls caught on camera falling into a decorated tree looked like my first husband, and I thought about the fake Christmases we’d spent together, especially 1980 when all three of his brothers managed to find their way to this city (which none of them had ever visited before) and his parents spent a ton of money on stuff in an effort to act like a real family. I still have the picture of the seven of us taken with his father’s fancy new camera with the timed-release shutter. I’m the only daughter-in-law on the scene. I am the only one not smiling. But even that represents something I once loved, or thought I did.
I was the first one up this morning, largely because I was the first one into bed last night. But I’m the last one up tonight. The house has gone quiet again, and not a creature is stirring, not even the blue and white bird who sings until the last light downstairs is turned off. But they’re still breathing their beautiful energy into the atmosphere as I sit here and think about everything I have ever loved, and somehow the darkness seems closer and holier still.
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