The 12 days of Christmas, give or take another three weeks, is the slow build to the fast release. It is what foreplay used to be when the space between anticipation and attainment was measured more by increments of time and the illusion of good intentions than shots of tequila and the open abandonment of moral fiber. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
It is a story of double entendres and silver bells, full hearts and empty wallets. For some it is rooted in faith, for others it springs from fountains of family and friendship. They tend to meet in the middle where secular ebbs send holiday cards to sacred flows, and their tides stretch into tidings of comfort and joy. Everybody gets in on peace, love and understanding. Nothing funny about it.
This year found us home, overworked and pressed for time. There were no family visits on the horizon to look forward to, and our friends and neighbors all had traditions of their own to fall back upon — a blurry round robin of extended family dinners and broken-home gift exchanges. My own lack of which left me both relieved and homesick.
I got by on 18 hour workdays, a bottle of whiskey, and the sound of a steel guitar playing softly in my head. The kids spent their days between the Wii and a rain-coated window. My wife made appearances between shifts and shopping, and left lists for me that started with a shower and ended with hints of a vacation in the tropics.
Christmas sprinted closer in a montage of bows, stress, and delivery trucks. Suddenly it was midnight on Christmas Eve, and I was standing beneath a tree surrounded by boxes of dreams and opulence. I felt so grown-up that I nearly cried.
The morning came fast and quick and stretched into the early afternoon. The boys got everything they wanted and then some. And then some.
We built a fire and filled the room with laughter. The warmth of each working to thaw me inside and out. There were breaths, each deeper than the last, and my heart began to melt like an iced cliché. The gleam in their eyes finished the job. The best gifts of the day were hope and happiness. And they were free.
In the days since Christmas I have allowed work to sit unattended (I’ll pay for it later), but there are more pressing matters at hand. For too long I let the lines, both dead and bottom, guide me, and they led me away from where I need to be.
This morning is soft in falling snow. There is a meadow in want of a snowman, and there is pretending that needs to be done.
We face our plans unafraid.