After turning on twinkle lights most evenings and listening to my Christmas mix on Spotify for approximately six weeks, the holiday season has burned out like the pine-scented candle on my coffee table with no wick left. This happened to several candles, by the way. The shift is most severely felt when the boxes come out of storage once again. Stockings are folded, ornaments rolled back into crinkled paper, and the whole house just feels so empty, at least for a couple of days.
And we're back. Another year, another round of resolutions, another chance to take a deep breath. The post-holiday clean-up almost feels like redecorating without buying new furniture, no? All the goodwill towards clean slates and starting fresh without the price tag of new chairs or rugs. (I'm one to talk, though, because last year we actually did buy new furniture. A sprawling blue couch with a chaise on the end that I don't regret for a minute.) But I digress.
The holidays were a mix of cozy and crazed, which was to be expected. Although thankfully, there was far more cozy to be had, thanks in part to still being on maternity leave, not traveling, and having an infant to snuggle with at all hours of the day. Between hosting Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's meals, hanging out with Henry, plus working on my new project (!!!), there was rarely any time to wander through the house wondering what to busy myself with. On the occasions I was able, I made sure to take advantage of Henry's long naps.
Sometime in the middle of December I made Smitten Kitchen's hot chocolate mix, which was a very good idea indeed. And when the baby rested, I warmed milk on the stove and whipped cream. I even managed to sit on the couch for a solid 15 minutes to read a magazine. I can't even talk about my magazine pile right now. Let's just say these opportunities leave me feeling very relaxed and accomplished.
Hopefully you're not completely sugared out from December, because as far as I can tell, winter is still here, and hot chocolate is still very much worth making until sometime in March, I would guess.
Oh, and just to keep it real, I should tell you a story about Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve reminded me of the day I lost my keys. It all started out very Christmas-ey. I spent most of my time in the kitchen prepping baked ziti, Italian beef soup, and meatballs for Christmas Day. We took a break in the afternoon to meet some of our friends nearby, then I came home to keep working away. A few minutes into washing dishes, our drain started clogging up. The disposal would suck down water then spit it back into the sink. Eventually it started to drain, but painfully slowly. This was around 6 pm. Thankfully a nearby drugstore was still open, so Andrew went out for Drano, which dashed my plans to turn on twinkle lights and sip on hot chocolate before dinner.
We managed to get by, but it meant avoiding washing dishes as much as possible. It also meant eating our Christmas lunch from paper plates. We layered the soup bowls three layers thick to keep them from warping, and picked at my mom's delicious salad with plastic forks.
I tried to remember that celebrating the meaning of Christmas did not hinge on whether or not I pulled down earthenware plates from the cabinets, but I wasn't the happiest of hostesses at the beginning. It turned out to be a wonderful day, of course, but I certainly had to talk myself into letting go of the table setting I had planned on.
Such is life. To close on a more uplifting note, give this poem a read. It certainly reminds you of winter's magic. And do make yourself a cup of hot cocoa sometime this season, too.
Deer Fording the Missouri in Early Afternoon
by Kevin Cole
Perhaps to those familiar with their ways
The sight would not have been so startling:
A deer fording the Missouri in the early afternoon.
Perhaps they would not have worried as much
As I about the fragility of it all:
Her agonizingly slow pace, the tender ears
And beatific face just above the water.
At one point she hit upon a shoal
And appeared to walk upon a mantle,
The light glancing off her thin legs and black hooves.
I thought she might pause for a while to rest,
To gain some bearings, but instead she bound
Back in, mindful I suppose
Of the vulnerability of open water.
When she finally reached the island
And leapt into dark stands
Of cottonwoods and Russian olives,
I swear I almost fell down in prayer.
And now I long to bear witness of such things,
To tell someone in need the story
Of a deer fording the Missouri in the early afternoon.
-from the literary journal Third Wednesday