The last present is unwrapped.
The food is put away and the dishes are done.
The last guest is gone.
Was it a good Christmas?
You ask yourself the rhetorical question. Suddenly, save for one television set in a another room, quiet permeates the house. You can actually feel the energy as it wanes. It’s like the last swirls of water down the drain. The sink is still wet and that’s all the proof you had that water was once there.
You know that feeling. The house is vacant, but there is residual energy. Proof that people were once there.
As each second passes, the energy fades. It’s all in the timing and today the timing was perfect, as was the holiday.
You are tired. And with good reason.
You were quite accomplished in your hostess duties this year. You graciously fed and entertained 18 members of your family. You did a good job and there is much to be proud of. The new furniture looks great. The new window treatments are gorgeous. The newly remodeled kitchen was a hit, too. Plus, you had the house professionally decorated this year. It was like a Courier and Ives photo come to life.
You walk through your home reliving the moments. You peer into the bar: ah yes, the liquor bottles were in great demand this day. The almost empty bottle of Dewar’s tells you that Uncle Sam was present and accounted for. Very little Vodka left and someone made sure Gin was consumed. Only one glass fell victim to shoddy dexterity this year. That’s OK. A set of 11-Waterford crystal hi-balls works just as well. You can always get another glass.
You move to the kitchen: you admire your architect’s handiwork as you hear the sound of the new dishwasher softly clicking into “rinse cycle”. Cookies, cakes and pies–the ones you couldn’t give away to departing guests, now sit on the counter top, protected from the elements by festive red and green plastic wrap.
You look in the refrigerator. It’s filled to capacity with food. No one touched cousin Lana’s three bean salad. There’s a good amount of dressing left, too but not that much turkey and there are only a few ham slices, too. You’re thankful you won’t have to deal with leftovers for very long.
Gee, a Coke sure sounds good.
You open a bottle. The fizzy sound is inimitable. You take a sip and savor the cold, crisp flavor. You take the bottle with you as you move to the living room.
There it is; a large seven-foot Blue Spruce that just 24 hours ago, presided over a house full of people and laughter, now stands rather empty looking—in spite of branches that still sport lights, ornaments and gold and silver tinsel.
Your husband is in the den, in his easy chair. An anonymous NFL game is on TV. The announcers’ voice serve more as a lullaby than play-by-play. He’s been asleep for almost an hour now.
You sit on the couch, holding the soft drink bottle in one hand, your head in the other. You smile. You thoughts focus on your daughter and what she’s doing at the very moment…how she might be looking down on her left hand admiring the beautiful diamond engagement ring she received this morning. Chris is a great guy. They’ll be happy, you hope. All this young woman’s hopes and dreams are centered around a piece of refined carbon atop a platinum setting. You remember when you and Bill got engaged. You look down at your wedding ring. Now as much a part of your personal scenery as your blond hair.
You think about your little sister and how happy she was when she opened the tiny gift her boyfriend had given her. It was a key and it fit the new Mercedes Benz parked outside. She was delighted. How lucky she is!! A brand new Mercedes! Wow, you think to yourself—he must really love your baby sister.
Your hear your husband stirring in the den. He’s awake. He changes the channel on the new flat screen TV. He seems to like his present. You’re glad. After 29 years of marriage, he’s still impossible to shop for. The man has everything!
He stops on an all music channel playing Christmas carols. You listen to the lyrics.
You think about your grandkids who went crazy when they ran in this very room this morning squealing with delight. They realized after seeing the bounty before them, that they’d been good enough for the past year to warrant a Christmas Eve visit by the red suited benevolent one.
This room was littered with so many toys!
Then, a passing car light brings you back to reality and you get up from the couch and walk toward the source. There, in the window you can feel the cold radiating off the panes of glass. You realize it’s Christmas everywhere, but you never thought about that all day. You were insulated by your life in your world. But even so, you know things are very different “out there”—beyond the panes of glass.
For a few fleeting moments, you think about all the life that exists outside your home. Then, you think about the people forced to live those lives.
There’s the dissatisfied wife whose husband forgot her again this Christmas. Her gave her nothing. That is, if you don’t count the black eye he gave her after she “made” him hit her as he unraveled at the height of one of his more violent drunken rages on Christmas Eve.
All is calm.
There are American servicemen and women stationed around the world who are on watch….on patrol. In Afghanistan, one squad is taking fire. A sniper in some bombed out mid-rise outside some war torn region has the upper hand. Suddenly, there’s a lull in the fire fight. One 19-year old soldier, wipes away a tear as he clutches a gun on this night. He wishes to God he could be at home, in his mother’s arms. No, be brave, he reminds himself. “I’m a Marine!” A stray bullet grazes the wall behind him. He hunkers down lower. For a fleeting moment, he thinks about his family; the tree; his Aunt Deb’s pumpkin pie. He wonders if they’ve thought about him at all this Christmas. This, as he prepares to return fire.
All is bright.
The 81-year old woman who waited for her son to come pick her up for a Christmas visit. She dressed and waited and waited, but he never came. He didn’t come last year, either. Maybe he’ll call on New Year’s Eve.
Round yon virgin, mother and child
There’s that sad, unkempt eight year old, the eldest child of a drug addict’s five children. She had to tell her crying brothers and sisters that Santa once again, lost their address. Their Christmas dinner is stale dry cereal, no milk. That was all she could find to feed them.
Holy infant so tender and mild
There are the those souls who’ll go to sleep hungry. Like those struggling to live in war-torn Darfur. The only Christmas gift some receive will be the “privilege” of waking up to yet another morning.
And in every city in this country, many people aren’t acknowledging Christmas. It’s hard to do that when you’re depressed and hungry. But their hunger goes beyond the need for food; they hunger for love and companionship.
They hunger for peace of mind.
Sleep in heavenly peace
There’s the broke couple who were only able to open envelopes containing bills on Christmas morning. There are grieving parents in Newton, CT who two weeks ago, sent their children to school only to bring them home later, in coffins. A family in New Jersey now homeless, because of Superstorm Sandy.
“How sad”, you think to yourself. You sigh and shake your head, but through it all, you thank God it’s them and not you.
Thank God indeed.
You take another sip of your drink and unplug the Christmas lights. It’s late. Time to go upstairs and try out the marvelous new king size Egyptian Cotton sheets that Sheila and Dan bought you. It’ll be like sleeping on a cloud. And you can’t wait to try on your new incredibly warm Chenille pajamas. Margaret must have spent a fortune on those!
You make your way toward the stairs and clutch your sweater; it’s cold in this big, five bedroom manse. Raise the thermostat up a notch or two and maybe steal a cookie on your way upstairs.
But before you do, you stop, turn and take a one final look around you. You finish surveying the day’s events and the castle in which everything unfolded.
Your home. Your family. Your good fortune. It all melds together in this life affirming moment amid the holly and tinsel.
All is right.
So, the answer is yes, it was a great Christmas; at your house, anyway.
Sleep in heavenly peace….