Sunday, December 25, 2011

No Place Like...

"Merry Christmas," I greeted my former sister-in-law, a woman I've never particularly liked or respected. Still, my laissez-faire (which sounds fancier than 'I just don't care') attitude of late enables me to feel gently, if absently, affectionate toward most people.

"It's a beautiful house," I complemented her, for she's done a lovely job at putting together a home for her and the Ones. Recruiting her parents to do most of the work, she'd put in new floors - shining hardwoods - upon which the two kittens she'd acquired as Christmas gifts pranced about. She gave me a tour, pointing out the colors she'd selected for paint and making me smile at the severe organization of the clothes in closets. I remembered visiting Brother and blinking in surprise at the neat rows and straight seams as they contrasted sharply with our more haphazard 'hang it up and leave it alone' approach.

We scooped up the girls, my mother and I, and drove back to my parents' house, parking next to my Jeep that had arrived - Chienne and I in tow - yesterday mid-morning. I had a sandwich - ham and cheese on Butternut bread - while my faithful canine carefully moved about the house, orienting herself rather rapidly to this once-familiar structure. We've not been home since last Christmas, I think, preferring for the family to come to us (with our many bathrooms and comfortable beds and convenient location next to work and shopping and restaurants). But Chienne quickly made her way around the house and past the maze of toys on the patio into the fenced yard. I was both proud and impressed. For a moment at least. Then I settled back into my 'eh' sort of mood.

We went to church last night (eh) and came home early as Mom coughed and coughed. She settled herself with a breathing treatment while I cinnamon-sugared biscuit pieces for monkey bread. Then we went to bed early and - for the first time in my life - slept past dawn on Christmas Day.

I awakened after 7, petted Chienne and praised her for snuggling with me all night - she normally paces the house to track its occupants - and we padded down the hall just as the phone rang to summon us to gather the girls. Brother had arrived before we returned home and the girls began tearing paper from presents before we had breakfast in the oven and coffee from the pot.

We cooed over presents and promised to play later and tossed wrapping paper away from piles of boxes and toys. I loaded my new belongings into the Jeep to help clear a corner as sun streamed through the front window. Little One read me books (So Cool - I love kids who read) and, having left my iPad at home, I helped myself to her Judy B Jones collection and - once I adapted to the style - quite enjoyed 3 of them in short order. (Little One - age 7 - was quite impressed with my reading speed. I also beat her at Connect 4. I think this means that I - age 32 - am awesome.)

Smallest and I made crayons - looking at each other in disappointment when the melted pieces failed to dump into the waiting molds.

"I put it together wrong," I said apologetically. "And now it's locked so I have to wait for it to cool and unlock before I fix it."

"Why?" she asked, frowning at me darkly. The crayon maker is a bit slow for a 4 year old Smallest. So I tried to explain that the crayon melter needed to be a bit forward - it wasn't meeting the tilting device. And I told her I was sorry.

"It's this thing," she decided and I nodded in understanding.

"So we blame Crayola?" I asked, smiling at her and she nodded before we both stared at the ticking timer on the new toy. (We did finally make them and they were pretty cool. Just time-consuming.)

Smallest joined me for a nap with Chienne and then we played Old McDonald before helping Mom make corn pudding. Little One and I played a variant of dominos and she finally won at Connect 4 and we read another story together (I liked Inside Your Outside - it's a Dr. Seuss series, apparently).

We had dinner, watched television and played more games. It was pleasant. It is pleasant - even as poor Smallest is struggling with a fever (which explains why she's been so calm and sleepy today). But I keep recalling the comment as I waited for my massage at the spa.

"Your heart chakra is blocked," my therapist noted after I'd selected some cards and then a scent. "You're struggling to connect."

"True story," I said. But the massage, facial, manicure and haircut failed to cure me. As did Christmas. I feel like I'm in a bubble - not painful or bad. Just distant.

Still, from my distant state, I'm wishing you much merriness as you celebrate Christmas (or simply yearn for the end of the holiday season).

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