The holiday that seemed to come upon us like a tinseled tsunami is now over.
It was a wonderful holiday – filled with warmth and laughter, too much food and drink, the bustle of shopping and wrapping, and most of all the presence of our family.
But now the tree is starting to look a little tired and its needles sprinkle when touched; some nights we forget to turn on the candles in the window. A battalion of empty wine and beer bottles now stands guard next to our recycling bin.
We still have too many cookies and no appetite for them. They no longer have the same appeal they had when they were baking in the oven, infusing the house with Christmas warmth. Even the cookie tin with the Santa on it couldn’t keep them from getting stale. The red and green sprinkles look weary, like someone who slept all night in her makeup. I’ve tucked a few dozen into the freezer, figuring that we might feel like having them again in April. Wish there were a foolproof method for matching supply with demand for cookies.
The wind is keening outside; I feel sleepy all the time; and just want to live on vegetables and soup. It’s just a case of post-holiday letdown.
Today when we woke up I noticed that our second floor hallway was sunnier than it had been for a week. That’s because the bedroom doors are no longer shut because our grown children are no longer sleeping behind them. Ben, Rachel B and Jesse have gone back to their apartments near Boston; Rachel F returned to San Diego on Monday and I dropped Ryan off at the airport yesterday for his trip back to London.
I miss that darkened hallway; the messy pile of Christmas gifts that have now been dispersed to Boston, California and Europe; the laughter that we could hear downstairs when we went to bed and the kids reveled until the wee hours; the medusa of X-Box wiring in our family room.
Yesterday John and I drove Ryan to the airport and listened to his IPhone playlist on the way – Lady Gaga, Adam Lambert, lots of unfamiliar club songs. I could picture my son dancing to those songs in some London disco. When we pulled away from the international terminal I plugged in my own phone and switched over to Elton John. Driving west on the Mass Pike, with “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” on the SurroundSound, I thought about how independent the kids had become and how the years when they need active parenting are so short. Then all of a sudden they have their own lives, with their own soundtracks that sound so unfamiliar.
A few hours later, John remembered that he had some homework to be completed over the holidays. After some grumbling to myself that the homework never seems to take a vacation, I helped him think out when he was going to complete it. Then I listened to him practice his trombone, which he is supposed to do every day.
“I want to be busier, but not too busy,” he said. “I’m playing too many video games.”
We talked for about 45 minutes on the satisfaction that comes from putting work before pleasure, and of having an optimum amount of busy-ness in our lives. John said he wished he could get better at school or on the trombone by just willing it to happen, without all that hard work. I told him that everybody struggles with that – even adults — and that Middle School was the end of playtime for most kids, and if he committed himself to a schedule for homework and trombone he’d feel better about both.
We unwound by singing the chorus from The Kinks’ song, “Father Christmas,” as the howling wind outside announced that January was on its way.