I managed to slip away just now for an hour or so, to the silence of my upstairs room-amidst-the-trees, with bread set to rise on the stovetop and pork shoulder slow-cooking in the flame beneath. Riles is attendant in the kitchen, setting his white-chocolate ice cream to spin in the electric ice core. Friends arriving in a few hours.
Yesterday evening, before heading down the street for Christmas Eve with neighbors (aka My Chosen Family), both boys were in the house: R. was shaping strips of red & white dough for candy-cane cookies, N. was wrapping. I was funneling my homemade vanilla bean liqueur into small bottles, and then corking them. R.'s holiday music sampler included some Jimi Hendrix:
I admit I didn't know who was playing, and I don't think R. takes greater delight in anything more than when I have to ask him who we're listening to, especially when it's someone from my generation. (I was too busy, as a teenager, working out on the piano the most mournful of Chopin pieces.) I'm discovering the music of my youth three+ decades late, but that's okay. For some reason, it makes more sense to me now.
Anyway, as I was exclaiming how f---ing fantastic this electric guitar was, I couldn't help notice that the flavor of this Christmas -- from the week-to-week buildup (which contained, astonishingly, almost zero baking) to this moment with the three members of my family unit in the family house at the same time -- was decidedly different from any other Christmas. Few, if any, of the old rules remain. The prime directive is to eat well & laugh often. Other than that, it's open to anything.
And I thought: this is it -- a moment of absolute contentment, where, for that tick of the clock, the house quietly humming with filial activity, all is as it should be in this planet we claim as home. In this house that's seen more than its share of heartache and yet is still the best place I can be, and the place where I can just be best.
You know what I'm saying?
I didn't expect this, long given-over to worry and a pervading sense of perpetual sinking doom. And yet there it was, wave upon wave of well-being -- and I was afloat, head above water, not gasping for a damn thing.
I may need reminders of this fleeting, flashing moment on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, when January grabs hold and threatens to pull me under the icy surface of winter.
But for now, there's dough to punch down and a cranberry punch to spike up.
And a Happy & Merry Etcetera to every last one of you!