Christmas Eve 2013

Gift under the Tree

Lump of Coal

LAKE MACBRIDE— Sixteen degrees below zero on Christmas Eve morning and the furnace just ignited. The Internet connection is down, but there is phone service to connect us to the world as the coffee steams and the laptop glows along with the colored lights of our decorated Christmas tree. The sound of the dishwasher creates noise that muffles the outside. Now the water softener cycles, adding to the score. And then the furnace turns off, having warmed the thermostat to 60. It seems quiet as memory reminds me it should be this day, despite the symphony of sight, sound and touch.

Ours is a small family, spread around the country. We have never had a Christmas holiday where we needed to do more than set up a card table or two away from the grown-ups. No card tables needed today. Do people even have card tables any longer? No travel plans, so I took a nap. After waking, the Internet connection was up and so was the sun. A brilliant day to be thankful for our many blessings and to make contact with friends and loved ones. There is more contact in the era of telephones, social media and Skype than previously, especially when it is too cold to go outside unless one is required to do so by work or trade.

Yesterday I made a batch of shortbread cookies― a contribution to holiday treats. Regardless of what we cook at home, Christmas gifts add to the edible bounty, with a fruitcake from Mother and some apple butter from a friend. Having enough to eat has never been a problem in our household, and the festive fare won’t last long. One batch of cookies is enough this year, although since writing the first sentences of this paragraph, I took a bag of rhubarb out of the freezer and made rhubarb crisp for dessert.

This year I left the lump of coal in the bin with other unused Christmas ornaments. It was a joke gift and except for 2013, it has been under our tree every year. Not this year. We’ve all been naughtier than we should and nicer than we thought. No need to joke about it. We just need to be better after this day of rest and quiet.

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