The table at Matt and Gina's, ready for Christmas dinner.
The week between Christmas Day and New Year's Day has always, for me, had an odd
out-of sync quality. Not in a bad way, not as a 'let-down', but a time rather less purposeful than usual.
As a girl, involved in programs and choir performances for school and church, I experienced December laden with heady anticipation--words and melodies, light and color, propelling me through cold snowy days and purple star-pricked nights.
My Mother was a church organist and choir director, [although she would have chaffed at that formal title] some years she was teaching music in the public schools as well.
Seasonal music was selected and practiced at home, verses memorized, melodies and harmonies perfected.
It was an era when families in our small New England hamlet hurried through evening chores to gather at the Town Hall for the annual school Christmas Program--whether or not they currently had children or grand children attending school.
Likewise, those who seldom 'darkened the church doors' made a point to appear on Christmas Sunday, drawn by the traditions of a sanctuary decked with greenery and the sound of a choir in full voice with pipe organ accompaniment.
I had a gift of song in those years and no sense of unease when I stood, hands clasped against my best winter frock, to sing a solo.
One of several gifts brought by the dear neighbors who spent Christmas Eve with us.
Marriage and motherhood expanded the traditions of Christmas. As with many young families, frugality was a necessity. A carefully chosen toy, a needed warm garment, perhaps a new book for each child; for the adults it was more important to be together, to share special meals, to exchange homemade treats.
Always for me there needed to be moments of sitting quietly, good music in the background, only the lights on the Christmas tree glowing in a house settling for the night.
The week following Christmas unfolds with fewer demands than usual. No school for children, often a shortened work week or 'time off' for those who go out to a job. When the last of the leftovers have been re-purposed and trotted out, simple meals suffice.
There are gifts to be stowed away, decorations to dismantle.
There is time to read a new book; time to linger at the table with hands clasped around a mug of tea; there is time to connect with friends and family who live far away---or next door.
There is time to stand at a window, to watch the play of winter light and shadow, to note the grey smoke that curls from the chimney and drifts before the wind.
I choose my church music this week from the less familiar carols--winter music that speaks of frost, snow, starlight, the drawing in to home and hearth.
I drift through this between week, contemplative, appreciating the familiarity of home--of winter-blooming plants on a windowsill; the company of my cats, the warmth of scarf and sweaters for the walk down the lane to the mailbox.
The first of the amaryllis to bloom--an early Christmas gift from Dawn and Howard.
I line up the special moments of this nearly finished December, adding them to a treasury of past years: the rehearsals with two gifted flautists, the precision of our performance on the day, each note falling sweet and clear.
The easy company of dear neighbors on Christmas Eve, telling tales around the wood stove;
the generosity prompting unexpected gifts so wisely chosen;
the scent of good food-- roasting meat, onions, herbs, sugar, spices.
A box of Vermont-made treats from dear friends 'back home.'
The restful pace of the between week is welcome, a small span of days to complete the circle of another year, marking time even as my mind trips ahead, moving steadily toward fresh projects
and renewed creativity.