|Three or four years ago - I think...|
Albert Einstein famously said "The only reason for time is so everything doesn't happen at once."
And yet at Christmas time, more than any other time of the year, it feels as if everything is happening at once.
That garland on the tree? I bought it in Maine, across the river from where I grew up and suddenly I am in grade three again, and we are colouring a Christmas scene across an entire chalkboard in dusty shades of red and blue and green and yellow and I cannot believe how beautiful it is and how wonderful my grade three teacher, Miss Read, is to let us have a picture we've done stay on the chalkboard for three whole weeks instead of wretched math problems.
Then I'm six and fighting with my grandmother, who is staying for us for Christmas for the first time because my grandfather is dead, and she thinks the tinsel garland ought to be hung vertically, when everyone (at least my father and I) know that it must be hung horizontally. We are both in tears by the end, for different reasons, and she is the bigger person and acquiesces, though it feels a hollow victory to me and I try to be extra nice.
|A glass of sherry and her dog Happy...|
That stocking hanging on the mantle in the basement this morning?
|same crazy hair!|
It's in my hands when I am one year's old and there is still the old stain of an orange I left in the toe for too long, concentrated as I was on my chocolate orange.
The Christmas of the Barbie Camper mixes with the Christmas of the air hockey game. There are all the boxing days in Hampton, and some in St. Stephen, and the year my older cousins got a pool table which I thought made them the luckiest people in the world. I discover The Chieftains and Elvis Costello singing "The St. Stephen's Day Murders" and always think of my cousins.
There are the years my mother cooked, then me, and soon enough I suppose, someone else. I am forever thirteen in my mind, hugging a giant stuffed Pluto with delight, then I am a mother and watching my children vibrate as they waited to go down and open presents, just like Margaret and Patrick and I did.
There's my dad's best friend Johnny Walker getting a race track for Christmas when he was in his fifties (I was so impressed!) and us playing it again and again all Christmas Day night while the grownups drank rum.
There are Christmas Eve services and the love I feel for those people in the small church, who only weeks before had watched me be an angel in a pageant or mangle my verse from "A Visit from St. Nicholas" - why'd I have to get the "As dry leaves that before a wild hurricane fly" verse anyway?
There is the Queen, Christmas Candy, dirty dishes, the goose. My mother is thirty, then fifty, then gone. We are sledding, it's a green Christmas, it's a blizzard.
I'm lying under the tree, bereft that it's over. I'm opening paper advent calendar doors, lighting advent candles, almost sick with anticipation. Barbie and I are singing Holly Jolly Christmas on the radio, Joanne and I are sliding on New Year's Day. I am caroling after a gift exchange at Anne's.
I am a mother and there are videos and handmade ornaments and "Baby's First Christmas Ornaments".
There is the great Battling Tops tournament in St. Martin's at my Great Aunt's. My grandfather in Port Elgin has a table top tree and I am secretly horrified. There are books and sweaters and fudge and Smarties towers that become banks after Christmas. Someone has made us mittens. Someone gave me scratchy pajamas. Mostly, I want toys and later, a boyfriend.
My mother is dead and my dad spends Christmases with us and one morning he sleeps so soundly that my five year old son thinks he's passed away in the night. Later, there is a Christmas morning in the O.R. while the kids wait at home to open presents. Then I am in Saint John at a hospital with my grandmother on Christmas Day and she holds my hand and can't speak much and I am scared because she is supposed to speak A LOT.
It's all there and more. We exist together, these memories and I, and they can overwhelm me and make me sad and they can make me smile with delight.
That time is a construct is a thing of wonder to me, and yet I feel it in my bones. Every cell in the body of that small girl cuddling the stuffed animal above has changed since that Christmas morning many years ago and yet I have all of her feelings and I can slip back into that morning as easily as I slip into my evening's bath. She has never left me. I am not visiting the past I feel, but opening another door in my mind. We are all there together, in the present.
As a great philosopher named Dr. Seuss once said: Christmas Day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp.
Some of those hands are here in 2015, some exist within us. Both are real.
I wish you the loveliest of Christmas and holiday "times" this year and wish nothing less for you than a blessed and healthy 2016 for you and your loved ones.