Friday, December 28, 2007

Old Books and Pure Vanilla

Christmas comes in a flash, and as quickly as it comes it is gone. The cessation of all the action can catch one off-guard like a brutal slap in the face. One moment we are reveling in the excitement and the next we are faced with somber isolation and quiet nothingness.

The shock often brings tears. Tears that are difficult to allay. And even more difficult to understand. But even at that, you and I both know it can happen to any of us – from the youngest to the oldest.

My childhood Christmases were always good though the gifts few. There were generally three gifts in keeping with the number of gifts brought to the Christ Child by the Magi. For me there was a toy, a craft, and new socks, warm bloomers, or a toque.

But my craft gift was more important than the more expensive toy-gift that served to fill an indulgent desire. There was healing to be found for me in the knitting spool, beads, string-art, or paint box and for my brother in a Mechano Set (a precursor of Leggo), modeling clay, copper-tooling or a clock repair kit.

Those craft kits had a vital role to play during the Christmas Season. When the festivities so abruptly ended, they let us down gently. Always, after Christmas, the sudden quiet made me anxious and sad, and that’s when I would curl into a cozy ball in a corner with my craft gift and paint, color, or stitch away until I had emotionally, but imperceptibly, readjusted once again to a normal life and simple existence.

The other thing I remember about childhood Christmases was how, among my three customary gifts, I always had a favorite. With so few it was easy to pick a favorite and the favorite was so special I couldn’t let it out of sight for a moment. That one special thing I hugged to my breast with heart-searing fondness. That special thing came to bed with me, to the dinner table with me, and stood hard by in a visible place when I was doing other activities. Don’t you remember the dump-truck that came to bed and dinner with you? Or the baking set, the egg-laying chicken, the magic whistle, or the paint box? I do.

And so that brings me to this Christmas. My neighbor and I agreed several years ago that we would rally in good cheer one evening during the Christmas Season, rather than exchange gifts. In seemed a much easier fulfillment of duty, without rigid obligation. But didn’t that same neighbor show up on Christmas Eve with a package for me? I reminded her of our agreement.

She responded by saying, “There is no obligation, Roberta. I know our agreement. But I couldn’t pass this stuff up, it was so RIGHT for you.”

And so, what could I do? I opened the little package. And inside there was a bottle of pure, non-imitation vanilla extract and a book, “King Solomon’s Mines” (1891). Could I have been more thrilled? Never.

And that’s when a feeling, so long ago familiar to me, took hold. I felt driven to put my book and my vanilla by my plate at dinner. I felt prompted to tuck these precious items into bed with me at night and position them close when I was cooking, vacuuming, or making beds. I felt a need to hold them close to my breast while watching TV.

I chuckle because it was the book and extract that cushioned my landing this year, as crafts did when I was a kid. On Boxing Day, as happens every year, the bottom fell out of all the gaiety and excitement of the season but it didn’t mist my eyes, as it so often does, or raise a lump in my throat. I just hugged my favorite gifts closer to my chest and without pensiveness, I landed squarely back in my mundane existence. My new Old Book and pure vanilla made it an easy, well-cushioned splashdown.

Today’s Writing Prompt: There was a flash and as quickly as it came, it was gone.

No comments: