December 2, 2019
The house I live in was built in 1976, as contracted for by me and the man I had married only a few months before. It was a typical suburban three-bedroom two-story in a new tract development, and at $40,000 for the base model was quite a bit beyond the “starter homes” most newlyweds occupied. I joked sometimes that it was “custom built,” because I altered the configuration of some bedroom closets and picked all the wallpaper myself.
The real estate agent we worked with was a high school classmate who was building his own first home eight lots to the east from ours. He’d shown us some other properties, some less expensive (in “used” homes), some in new construction a bit grander than the neighborhood we eventually settled on. With each showing he would usher us into the kitchen and say, directly to me, “Just look at this! Imagine yourself in here, because this is where you’ll spend most of your time.” I’d smile and nod, but say in my heart,Â Fat chance. I’m not a housewife! Show me where my books and my desk go!
Forty-three years later there’s a different husband (1983), the remnants of the glorious child born 1985 grown to young woman here (leaving behind in 2008 her handprints pressed repeatedly into the ugly wallpaper in her bathroom after a shower), and a remodeled kitchen (1994) that looks out on a green vista that the original floorplan had effectively hidden.
And I do spend, if not most, at least a lot of my time in that kitchen. Oh, I had big plans for this year. I was going to declutter and restore to its former glory the entire downstairs, and decorate for Christmas exactly the way I used to when I had my Grand Gaudete Sunday Holiday Extravaganza (1992 through 2006). I was also going to make up for all the time I lost to my writing endeavors while experiencing my habitual autumn anxiety about the worth of all my scribble, scribble.
By the day before Thanksgiving I knew that was not going to happen. I made some headway, but, really, not enough. I reminded myself that I had those holiday extravaganzas when I was working full time and had a growing child to tend to. My party was literally born in the checkout line one Wednesday evening when I stopped to get us something to eat, plucked up a Pillsbury Easy Party Plans booklet, and said,Â I could do this.
I cleared the space around the table, installed my Advent wreath, and put my spiritual resources (including The Advent Kitchen and Sarah Arthur’s Light Upon Light) and my writing materials in an easy-to-reach basket.
This kitchen, this beloved vista, is where my Advent and Christmas will take place. I did my habitual C&C yesterday and this morning, and then spent the hours I would have been at school taking up the work I abandoned in September. I wrote 500 words of new fiction, about a girl who is forced, kicking and screaming, to church one otherwise quiet Wednesday evening in the summer of 1964.
It’s good to be back to work. It’s good to have that candle lighted.