Frosty and bright mornings. To open the door and to see frost-covered ground, trees, shrubs, cars, and roofs and to witness a bright sun starting the cold day–lighting the scene–and to feel the brisk, cold air are blessings.
A new mailbox. A neighbor hit my old mailbox with his car. He was apologetic and offered to help repair it or to pay for it. I had meant to replace it since I moved here five years ago. When we examined the damage, we found that the wood was not in good shape. It had rotted and could not be repaired. The flag to indicate postage to pick up mail had been clipped before I bought the property. I was never able to use it. I told my neighbor I should shake his hand in thanks for hitting it and exposing rotted wood. I told him not to worry about help or payment; all was good.
I telephoned a friend, who said he had an extra mailbox, if I’d like it. I bought a new post set–fragrant cedar wood–and my friend came, drove the frame in and mounted the shiny new black mailbox, complete with a bright red flag. It is beautiful. What a good Christmas surprise–and gifts of mailbox and labor. I am as happy as can be.
Inflatable yard decorations. They are popular, and I wonder if the owners enjoy seeing them deflated as much as I do. There’s Santa, all properly jolly and fat and smiling and happy and then the next morning flat on the ground, looking as if he has been mowed down.
A local church has an inflatable nativity scene, all in one piece. Joseph is young, smiling and sporting a bushy brown beard, and stands next to a middle-aged Mary, who is almost as wide as she is tall. They are standing in front of a stable-kind-of structure. A large yellow star is at the roof. A reclining lamb looks up at Joseph. Mary holds the Child, who look as if he as been stuffed into a large snowball. Swaddling cloths, forsooth! When the wind blows, the whole scene rocks back and forth. I hope it will not lose air. I would not like to see it lying on the ground, deflated, pathetic.
Reading for the season. Dylan Thomas, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” It’s an essay I don’t read every year, but it is one of my favorite pieces of nonfiction. “One Christmas was so much like another . . . that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.” So begins this wonderful remembrance of childhood at Christmastime.
Memorable characters are drawn through sketches: “Uncles . . . trying their new cigars, holding them out judiciously at arms’ length, returning them to their mouths, coughing, then holding them out again as though waiting for the explosion; and some few small aunts . . . sat on the very edges of their chairs, poised and brittle, afraid to break, like faded cups and saucers.” And “two hale young men, with big pipes blazing, no overcoats and wind-blow scarfs, would trudge, unspeaking, down to the forlorn seat to work up an appetite.” And neighbor Mr. Prothero, whose reaction to smoke left in his living room after a fire was, “waving his slipper as though he were conductor.”
Activities of the narrator and his friends include throwing snowballs at cats; enjoying the sounds of bells; watching postmen making deliveries; enjoying presents; escapades with friends in town; hearing ghost stories; enjoying the smells and tastes of candies and the Christmas dinner; looking at the decoration of the rooms of his house.
My favorite description of a “useless” present: a coloring book “in which I could make the grass, the trees, the sea, and the animals any color I pleased . . . dazzling sky-blue sheep are grazing in the red field under the rainbow-billed and pea-green birds.”
The essay ends on this benediction: “Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steadily falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.”
My edition is A New Directions Book with woodcuts by Ellen Raskin, 1954.
A Christmas Project. It has been a long time since I bought a coloring book and the largest box of crayons on the market and colored each page, using all the colors of the crayon box on each page. Inspired by the above quotation about coloring, I’ll do that this holiday season. I’ll give it to a friend.
The first reader of the blog who asks for it in a comment here will receive it through the US mail. If I don’t have your mailing address, please send it in an email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for reading. Enjoy these beautiful days of Advent.