from Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann


It’s a good world, this, in all its odd little moments. P 55

Today it is raining. Again. M has gone out to do the laundry and grab a last minute gift or two. T and I are home; quietly watching the mist roll in, listening to the patter of the notsnow outside.

Inside it is unexpectedly cozy. T is under the sock quilt recovering from his wisdom teeth surgery. Every so often I get up to give him medicine or help change the gauze or get him the gel packs. We have a system and his part includes listening to audio books and napping. He’s home from his first semester at college, and today he’s fulfilled yet another rite of passage. Most of the other patients we saw today were also college freshman.

Tonight we will decorate the tree in hopes of going to a friend’s house on Christmas Eve. We have tried for at least five years to finish all of the holiday tasks so that the night before Christmas we were free to go out and sit amongst friends with a hot beverage or soup to sustain us. I hope this is the year we finally make that happen. But if not, then we’ll send our apologies and spend the evening like busy elves: wrapping, knitting and baking; scurrying to get it all done.

But now the kettle is on for tea and the house feels snug. Soon M will be home and we’ll have dinner— tacos for some, pudding and ice cream for other—and maybe we’ll put Elf on while we untangle the lights and open the boxes of ornaments. Unearthing each from its layer of bubble wrap is like finding a forgotten friend. The waves of nostalgia wash over as we hook each one to a pine branch. It won’t matter if we talk over the dialogue, we can quote this movie from memory we’ve seen it so many times. Having it on in the background is part of the tradition.

If in the future I was given the chance to relive a day, would it be this one? Perhaps. All in all it’s been a good one, quietly unassuming in its brilliance. It has been a day in which I comforted my child; with my hand I smoothed back his hair and put my lips to his forehead. I don’t know that I have many more of these. He needs me less and less. I treasure these odd little moments. stolen out of time. I’ll put them in my pocket like the most precious of keepsakes, jangling against the smooth stones that live there. Years from now something will jog my memory and I’ll think of the rain, the tree waiting to be adorned and the steady hum of the house as the holiday enveloped us like a sock quilt.

At this time of year, when the days are so short they pass by in a blink, it helps to make your own light.

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