Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Maybe it's me, but it just seems wrong to say that--before Dec. 1. But this year, I remembered to get the Advent Wreath out. Didn't remember to light it until after dinner, but I'm already ahead of the game!

We have our wreath, we have our tree. Both are sitting outside enjoying the December showers, with the tree sitting in a bucket of water. We've moved the treadmill out of the way. We've drawn name for Christmas presents: my siblings and spouses in one group; the cousins in the other. Next I have to post Christmas lists on the family site and check sizes for those we've drawn.

"Isn't this supposed to be a secret?" DD#1 asked as I wrote down the results of the Cousins Draw.

"Kinda sorta, " I answer. We don't advertise who we may have drawn, but if they find out it's no big deal. And there are usually several furtive phone calls or e-mails between family members.

I haven't watched Miracle on 34th Street yet or It's a Wonderful Life. At Mass, when I mentioned the Advent Wreath, DS#2 asked about his favorite video, We Sing: The Best Christmas Ever. Other kids liked Barney; this video was his favorite. DD#2 was a fan of the Sing-a-long with Disney: Christmas video. They're in the same box with the Advent wreath and the Advent Calendar, along with all the books of Christmas stories. We'll watch them while decorating the tree or wrapping presents, shooing the dog off the paper and rescuing the ribbon from the cats. At some point, we will run out of tape and misplace all the scissors, even though I have bought new supplies of both at the discount warehouse store.

This is the time of year, too, when my lack of homemaking ability and desire comes into sharp relief. The Homemaking Gene skipped me. Pretty much every flat surface in our house is a horizontal filing cabinet. Or is a staging ground for something. I need to clear off the mantlepiece and its collection of packages of school photos, telescope pieces, clocks, and craft projects that came home over last school year and summer so we have room for Christmas stuff. Like stockings. My siblings and cousins exchange homemade baked goods or preserves. I buy mine from the local chain grocery store.

Then one year I realized I could make stationery sets. I made enough for my cousins. Sis#2 asked, "Where's mine?" Well, if I made a set for her, I'd have to make a set for Sis#1. And my SIL's (there are five of them). And what about my Best Friends, the women who have been by my side since we were 12 and 14? And my mother? So the number of sets ballooned from 5 to 25. My only stipulation is that they have to actually use the cards. I had my doubts about that part--I thought everyone was merely being polite--until we had a Friends & Family Craft Day. I was making my stationery and someone said, "Well, you don't have to make them." Sis#2 and two of my SIL's answered almost simultaneously: "Yes, she does!"

I've given up sending Christmas cards, mostly because I can't bear to send them off without a note, which turns into a letter, which has to be personalized because my friends know different parts of my life and what is important to one is not important to another. At the rate I was getting them out, Christmas was happening in July.

The Calendar, too, is filling up. There's the local Holiday Arts Festival. There's DD#2's Christmas pageant at school (it's our parish school so they celebrate Christmas!). My Girl Scout troop is singing Christmas Carols for fun this weekend and for the residents of a senior retirement home later this month. I have three celebration dinners scheduled so far. We've been to see the Christmas tree in Union Square and the kittens and puppies in Macy's window. Our local "Holiday Tree Lighting" is later next month, but the lights and banners are already up along the main streets.

The rain just makes it seem more like Christmas out here, even though it took me 90 minutes to drive 9 miles last night.

But the lights on the streets soften the early darkness. The candles on the coffee table will perfume the living room. There will be a heightened sense of mystery in the air and conspiratorial whispers. Another layer of memories will be added and some day we will whisper, "Remember the year when..."