I’ve known of the project for a while–he spent months and months and months working on it, and once completed, invited us over for our first viewing.
It is an incredible work of art. Tim and I marveled at his imagination, his ingenuity, his skill. My brother had built this North Pole Village, you see, built it in his dining room, complete with ice skaters and a ski slope and all the things with no kit or instructions or anything, really, but a great curiosity to figure it out.
So happy he did!
(Yes, that’s The Polar Express train circling through the village!)
Except where we are. IN FLORIDA. During the most exciting snow event EVER.
Still how can I complain? I spent the six-hour drive south yesterday watching every snow video and clicking through the snow photos from every person I love and every person I follow all across the interwebs.
IT WAS MAGICAL.
And then this morning, as I sat here looking out at the cold, wet Palm Trees, these beauties arrived on my phone from my lovies, Emily and Eliza, in Atlanta. They’d foregone their beloved Sleep-in Saturday time to get outside and PLAY.
That there, my friends, is some December snow joy!
It’s a lovely and mind-boggling thing to watch your children become people–and by that I mean grownups with lives all their own, often lived in faraway cities. You feel great pride in watching their growth, their maturity, their learning to deal with all the incoming of daily life as they stand independent from you.
But it’s also a weird thing to spend much of the holiday season simply waiting for them to return home.
(Now I understand my own mother’s sentiments when I’d walk in her door after making the long six-hour drive to Virginia. “You’re here,” she’d say. “Now Christmas can begin.” Internally I’d roll my eyes a little, thinking she was being just a tad dramatic. I mean, there were 4000 Santas in her little den alone. Clearly Christmas had taken up residence.)
Oh do I get it now.
Still the point I meant to make as I sat down to write Day 8 is the joy my heart felt when this photo scrolled by on Instagram.
This is Maddie’s tree. Sweet, sweet Maddie, a dear friend of Eliza’s who lives in a tiny, tiny one room apartment in the city. I looked at this little tree with its white lights and star and felt the joy of simple things, of small spaces and kind gestures, of how awesome it can be when there is, in fact, less. Not more.
It’s just exactly perfect, this tree. Don’t you think?
About the time I hit the LOVE button on Instagram a ping popped on my phone. My own Eliza had sent a video of her three roommates running across a gigantic intersection with a long skinny bundle under their arms. (You have never heard such giggling.)
We just bought a real Christmas tree! she wrote.
I don’t know where they got the ornaments, or the tree skirt, or the star, but I know it makes me immensely happy that those four lovies have brought the spirit of the holidays to their apartment. It was a well considered decision, I am quite certain, as living in Atlanta requires each of them to budget well.
And so all of us–all the Moms and Dads and Grands and Aunties and Uncles–all of us are waiting, watching, counting the days until the planes land or the buses stop or the cars pull in the drives, counting the moments until those we love most come home.
We found ourselves at home together, on a Monday afternoon, with much decorating left to do. Tim had been traveling, and I’d made some progress, but still there were the windows, the porch, the banister, finishing the tree.
Christmas music! I suggested, something that seemed a little aggressive for a regular old workday. Then for better measure, and a cocktail! (It was not yet 4:00 and I must admit there was more enthusiasm than I expected as this spur-of-the-moment thought came out of my mouth.) Still I pressed on.
With bourbon! I said.
I have never been a bourbon drinker, I must tell you, but at a writing conference this summer, kind, new friends shared with me a splash of their aged Knob Creek. The taste warmed me nearly as much as the generosity of the offering. (Kristi and Matthew, I’m talking about you.)
Old Fashioneds, I smiled, something we’ve never made, my imagination serving up a vision of the gorgeous copper color, an orange peel curling in the glass. But alas an inspection of our cabinet revealed an absence of Bitters. And so Google brought us this, with just three on-hand ingredients: lemon, honey, and bourbon. The Gold Rush.
So it’s only Monday. Turn up the tunes!
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons boiling water
1 1/2 lemons, juiced, about 4 tablespoons (2 ounces)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) bourbon
Mix honey and water to make a thin syrup and let it cool. Add this, along with lemon and bourbon, to an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake, shake, shake for 10 seconds or so. Strain over big ice cubes in a rocks glass.
TIM HAS BEEN TRAVELING, which has rendered time slow, and my own. Every night I’ve headed to the bedroom early where I’ve stolen his pillow, snuggled under more blankets than my sweet husband can stand, and opened my book to read.
Then true to form I’ve promptly fallen asleep. Within 32 seconds or less, each and every night.
The upside is I’ve awakened each morning long before the sun. I throw on a sweatshirt, feed the dog and turn on every Christmas light in the house. Then for the next hour or two I pad around doing this and that, soaking up the dark and the quiet like an introvert just returned from a loud, boisterous party.
This morning was no exception. But this time I took my coffee to the living room where I sat facing the dark windows and the lake and the sunrise and I pulled out my book, to read.
Anyway, this December finds me reading The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey. Y’all. This book. It is quiet and heartbreaking and tender and a marvel. I sat here reading in the dark and quiet and tears came, they did, real live tears because the story is just so touching. So moving.
Here is a bit:
All her life she had believed in something more, in the mystery that shape-shifted at the edge of her senses. It was the flutter of moth wings on glass and the promise of river nymphs in the dappled creek beds. It was the smell of oak trees on the summer evening she fell in love, and the way dawn threw itself across the cow pond and turned the water to light.
Mabel could not remember the last time she caught such a flicker.
She gathered Jack’s work shirts and sat down to mend. She tried not to look out the window. If only it would snow. Maybe that white would soften the bleak lines. Perhaps it could catch some bit of light and mirror it back into her eyes.
My beloved bluebirds nested three times this season, a record here on Bickley’s Pond. Still that is not the most surprising thing that happened around here this summer. This is.
One precious teenager, whom we assume was born of the early brood, started hanging around during the last hot days of the third nesting. It was mid-July and Mama and Daddy were very busy trying to satiate 2017 babies numbers eleven, twelve, thirteen and fourteen.
(These loving parents were also, I am quite certain, exhausted.)
Junior waited. And watched.
Then he started hopping about the yard digging for worms and spiders and creepy crawlies. But rather than eating them himself, the youngster flew to the nest time and time again feeding the bounty to his little brothers and sisters.
On Day 17 the brave little babies climbed to the opening, flapped their wings and jumped from the nest for the very first time. I wasn’t there to witness their fledging (I’m sad to say) but I am quite certain their big brother was very close by, cheering them on.
It was a sweet way to spend July, watching this little group, a reminder of the strength of love, the power of encouragement, and the bonds of family, united.
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