07 December 2008


It's December and the temperatures are in the single digits and the ground is frozen and Christmas is only a few weeks away and the house is quiet and the light is soft: small white Christmas tree lights throw broken, diffused shadows, pools of difference on the already-organic plaster walls, sagging and settling after eighty years on horizontal lath; dinner is long over and everyone else is asleep and I can still smell the sourdough and mussels we ate after we lit our second Advent candle, all of us holding, barely, hands or fingers, pinkies linked with fragile certainty, giving thanks, remembrance, hope.
All there is to do and I do it and my mother did it and when I was nine or eleven or seven I had big eyes and everything in December had a purpose; we were good so we could put pieces of straw in the manger so baby Jesus would have a soft place to be born when we lay Him in it on Christmas Eve; and for weeks flour and yeast, molasses and ginger and clove and candied fruit filled my nose and eyes; the island in the kitchen always flour-covered, and always a bowl, the beater, nuts to be chopped, a cookie to be rolled in sugar or placed in a foil-lined shoebox, between layers of wax paper, not to be eaten until everything, everything was brought out on Christmas Eve and the dessert plate illuminated all that had been dark, and those moments of awe and wonder and mystery and butter swirled together, and the cookies I made as a boy we still make and when we take the lid off the cardboard box where the tin cutouts lie jumbled for all but once a year, we each claim a shape as the first we'll use - maybe the bell or angel - and when we roll out the butter-rich, anise-scented dough, I know there is no time, that all time is one time and my memories haven't yet started to form; flour covers my hands light as a blessing, and I stop to think about all we have yet to do.

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