Another Day in the Country
Giving keeps on giving
© Another Day in the Country
We had Christmas dinner yesterday at Carol and Gary’s house — turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, the whole nine yards — and it’s the middle of January.
“We didn’t get to do it before you left for California,” Carol said, “so we’re doing it now.”
A Christmas tree still dominated their living room —pine boughs and lights over the fireplace, Christmas candles on the table, presents under the tree for us! We even had Christmas napkins.
“Can you tell me what this napkin says?” I asked the kindergartener in our family.
“Home for the holidays,” she read to me. “I’m good at reading,” she said.
Evidently, they’d been tested at school. She informed me she also was good at math.
Since when are they teaching reading and math in kindergarten, I wondered, realizing how many years it has been since my kids were in kindergarten. Times change.
This morning, I slipped on some cozy socks that I got in my Christmas stocking this year.
Jana had asked my sister and I to make a list of things we liked to receive at Christmas. I’d put red gloves, weird socks, and licorice on that list. My Christmas stocking had five — FIVE — packages of unusual licorice, a pair of red gloves, and six — SIX — pairs of Nordic-looking socks in it.
Yes, I still get a Christmas stocking on Christmas morning right along with the rest of the family.
Little did I know when I started this custom for my girls, that this would be going on for more than 50 years.
We’ll do it until they are teenagers, I said to myself, and then we’ll stop.
After the girls had moved out of the house and were living on their own, I knew we’d be getting together for the holidays.
I’d say, “How about we dispense with stockings?”
They’d act like 6-year-olds: “Moooooommmmmmm,” insisting the custom continue. And continue it has.
Jimmy, my pen pal who’s serving a lifetime sentence in prison, sent cards for the holidays.
I say cards, plural, because he always sends more than one. Right after Thanksgiving, he’ll send the first card of the season, wishing us all happy holidays. Then, as it gets closer to Christmas, at least one more card will come.
“I’m celebrating the holidays, too,” he assures me. “Lots of the guys in here ignore the season, but not me! I’m looking for anything to make a day brighter.”
He even ordered some special pastry treats out of some catalog to have with a hot drink after dinner for Christmas.
“We all need a little warmth,” he says.
That is what special days are about — reminding us that we all need a little warmth and good cheer, right down to six pairs of socks and five more packages of licorice — both things a lifetime supply for me.
Jess made a list, too, for Jana. And she got a package in the mail with a fancy set of pruning sheers. And she got her favorite diffusers that make her house smell so yummy.
It was so much fun to get back from California and find Christmas cards and packages waiting for me to open.
My cousin Keith sent me three books for Christmas. The most fun about the package was the note he included. I looked at his handwriting — four pages of it — and realized I’d never seen his writing before.
Like a lot of guys, he often lets his wife do the communicating — especially with cards and letters — and this was the first time I’d received a handwritten letter from him. In the letter, he told me why he was sending each of the books.
“I know you like horses,” he said, “so I’m sending ‘Horse,’ about race horses being trained by black slaves in early American history.
“You lived in the San Luis Valley at one time, I know, so I’ve included the book, ‘Cheap Land Colorado,’ on the history of that area . . . and, of course, ‘West with Giraffes,’ is because I know you enjoy painting them.”
(In fact, they have one of my giraffe paintings hanging in their house.)
It was quite a treasure for me, the constant reader, to have a stash of books sitting beside my bed.
When I called my cousin to thank him for the books, he answered the phone out of breath. He’d been taking down Christmas decorations and had to run for the telephone.
I’m also taking down Christmas decorations, but when I came to the tree, I decided to decorate it with hearts and keep it up a while. I like the warmth that the lights bring to that corner of the house.
I’m following in my sister’s footsteps. She can keep one celebration after another going on her ancient artificial tree: Valentine’s, St. Patrick’s, Mardi Gra, even Fourth of July.
I just keep on celebrating, too, and pull on a pair of my cozy socks to keep my toes warm, grab a handful of fancy unusual licorice, and snuggle up to read the evening away after another day in the country.