I didn’t take photos again. Or, I took three, but they hardly do justice to the full day (day-and-a-half, if it starts at 4:30am, I think) starting with FOUR HOURS of patient but so! breathless! anticipation from a seven-year-old girl who woke up in the middle of the night, dressed herself in a little knit elf dress and sequined Santa hat, and quietly announced at my bedroom door that she was going to go sit on the couch downstairs, and maybe, maybe, see if she could find the pickle and be the first to open a gift.
Brian said, “It’s five am, Miriam, you need to go back to bed,” but I was half awake anyway, and seeing her in her little elf outfit broke my heart, so I got up and dragged a sleeping bag down to camp on the couch with her while she read and waited, and waited, and waited.
I got the fire going and nodded off, waking several hours later to hear Brian making pancakes in the kitchen. We had a family breakfast, which isn’t typical for us but was lovely, and then settled in for a few hours of gift opening. We had four, five, six? families’ worth of gifts under the tree since all the grandparents and aunts and uncles sent them over instead of us trekking from house to house this COVID season. The low-key simplicity of the day’s logistics was so welcome, but the gift pile under the tree was really conflicting. I love a big huge loot pile, especially when it’s wrapped in pretty paper and bows, but man, the air felt heavy with conspicuous consumption and a big gaping void of false meaning. There were some gifts I loved, and some I didn’t, and I tried to reconcile my agitation by focusing on the love and care put into each thing by each giver, accepting the current status, and working on reigning in the chaos of ripped paper, cardboard, pine needles, and Things. Aaron put a tiny wrapped package in my stocking that said “To Mommy” and my heart melted when I read it. Inside was a little baggie of guitar picks. He also gave me fountain pens and brush pens, which I use and need, and he didn’t know that, so it was serendipitous. Mimi picked out several gemstones for me, including the most healing stone of all time (pink opal?) and Brian made me a distortion pedal, which feels like “my soul is able to speak a language it’s always wanted to but didn’t know how.”
We then snacked on charcuterie from The Farmer’s Rail and eventually made it outside for a very brief walk. It was around 20 degrees and windy. Mimi any I came in early, and I worked on dinner, which was ham, roasted celery root and parsnips, two kinds of scalloped potatoes (one dairy-free), green beans, and leaf lettuce with dijon vinaigrette. We forgot to eat dessert, though the kids treated themselves with fat candy canes, and I enjoyed a teaspoon or two of aquavit.
I called my dad and he talked to me for twenty minutes, which is a long time, and he told me things about my grandfather’s war experiences: how he sent his paychecks home and his mother spent them all, that he’d been in an entourage with Eisenhower and shared a typewriter with Ernie Pyle, that he was awarded a silver star at Normandy for repeatedly running across the battlefield to pull wounded comrades from the surf. That segued into my great-uncle’s $50,000 salary in 1940 as a self-taught industrial designer who got fired again and again for mouthing off and probably had Asperger’s.
We watched Soul, which was released on Disney plus today and was moving, visually and auditorially sweet and soft, and spooky enough toward the end that Mimi needed to curl up next to me and almost fell asleep. Then she wrapped her new fuzzy pink boa around my neck and went to bed. I’m up kneading sourdough that I started this morning, and I’m still wearing it.