Wisdom: Gift-Wrapped and Waiting

The key sits loosely in its lock, unturned, unnecessary. In a neighborhood where children drift from one house to the next as freely as wind-tossed leaves, and women freely borrow milk or sugar from unattended kitchens, no one locks a closet.

In this neighborhood, closets hold no treasure — no jewels, no gold, no banded stacks of bills. They overflow with life’s necessities: shoes tidied into original boxes, purses and shirts, a wardrobe of ties. Now and then, two closets nestle side by side. Hers is obvious: ajumble with boxes of quilting scraps, extra pillows, photographs, and report cards. His, more intentional, arranged with more precision, is a purposeful array of hunting vests, stamp paraphernalia, drafting tools, and gun cases. It’s a perfect marriage of closets.

Dimly lit and cave-like, the closets are mysterious, compelling and sancrosanct. Few children dare enter them without permission, but in these weeks before Christmas, a child might be tempted to cross the bounds of caution by the merest whisper of possibility: “There might be presents…”

It’s a special kind of hide-and-seek, this business of children searching out what parents have tucked under the bed; in the basement; on those out-of-the-way shelves behind the washer. Always, there is fascination with the best hiding-place of all: a parent’s bedroom closet.

If you decide to invade this closet, you’ll find its lock less of an impediment than the bottom hinge; it’s needed oiling for months. It protests with a rising, audible whine when the door’s eased open, but only if you hesitate. Pull it firmly, resolutely, and it remains silent.

More dangerous is the oak floorboard lying halfway between the threshold and the closet. However firmly or lightly you step, it creaks beneath your weight: the sound sharper by far than the scrape of branches on winter-frosted windows. Counting from the threshold, it’s the twenty-eighth board that complains. Any careless or inattentive child who doesn’t watch, count, and count again before stepping across the offending board will hear a voice from the living room below: “Get out of that closet!”

I know this, of course, because I lived for years with that twenty-eighth board: plotting and planning my way across the broad bedroom floor like Meriwether Lewis confronting a cataract. Even today, faint beneath the hum of holiday traffic or the obnoxious repetition of holiday advertising, I  hear the murmuring hinge and the floorboard’s muffled creak.

But there is more to that board and those hinges than amusing sorties and nostalgic sounds. There is the sting of regret, a slight, bitter taste of deception, and the chagrin of learning what life may hold for a child who refuses to wait for Christmas.

The year impatience overcame me, the tree already was upright and strung with lights, ready for cranberry garlands and tinfoil bells. The first of the Christmas cookies had been baked and decorated, and the menu planned for Christmas dinner. Still, the house felt empty, bereft of the excitement and anticipation stirred by the sight of gifts.

Looking around, I found no bits of wrapping paper in the trash, no extra Scotch tape or out-of-place scissors. Listening, I heard no tell-tale car door slamming after I’d been sent to bed. I wasn’t precisely worried, but recent exposure to Santa rumors had left me cautious, nervous about my best friend’s contention that kids who don’t believe in Santa don’t get any gifts at all. Eventually, I thought, I’d need to check things out.

A week later, our family was invited to a neighbor’s open house, and my mother allowed me the choice of coming along or staying home. Sensing opportunity, I choose to stay home, muttering vague justifications about needing to work on school projects. From an upstairs window, I watched them leave, cross the yard, and disappear into our neighbor’s home.

With my parents safely occupied, I sprinted out of my bedroom and into their room. Heedless of the squeaking floor or hinges, I opened the door to my dad’s closet. The thin, lambent sunlight of late afternoon barely lit its contents. When I pulled the chain hanging from a single, overhead bulb, the sudden explosion of light confirmed my worst fear: nothing was out of place. Half-heartedly, I pushed back some shirts, and peered at the familiar shoe boxes. No packages huddled in the gloom, no paper or ribbon hinted at Christmas. Perplexed, I shut the door.

Convinced that any gifts would have been secreted in my father’s closet, I barely had glanced into my mother’s. Even when I stepped inside the already-opened door and turned on the light, I nearly missed the glint of candy cane-striped foil paper. Lifting up what appeared to be a hastily tossed heap of mending, I gasped. A pile of boxes was waiting, neatly wrapped and ready for bows. Each carried a tag, and of the few that I could see, most carried my name.

It would be years before I learned the phrase, “crime of opportunity,” but on that day I had opportunity, and I fell easily into crime.

Carefully, cautiously, neither moving the mending nor unstacking the boxes, I lifted the clear tape from the neat, vee’d fold of paper on one end of a box. The wrapping paper, heavy, smooth, and slick to the touch, remained intact. The tape peeled up perfectly, the sharp, crisp folds of paper popped open easily, and I discovered the contents by reading the end of the box.

Today, I have no memory of the box’s contents. I remember only my sudden sense of guilt, my dread of being discovered, and the disappointment I experienced when the time came to unwrap the package on Christmas morning. Guilt, disappointment, and dread would have been punishment enough for such a crime, but worse by far was my first, unhappy taste of dishonesty’s primary consequence: having to pretend everything was right when, in fact, everything was wrong.

My unwillingness to wait, born of an overwhelming desire for immediate gratification and an inability to trust that there would be gifts, had left me unable to celebrate. I wished only for Christmas to end. It was a terrible day, and a mistake I never repeated.

Today, while merchandisers focus on the shopping season, and the media hype a party season, a season of excess and inevitable disappointment, Advent continues to extend a gracious invitation: an invitation to delay gratification, and learn a deeper patience.

A season of silence and shadows, Advent whispers an uncomfortable truth: waiting is the condition of our lives. From birth to death, from our coming in to our going out of this amazing, implausible world, we live our lives in a state of perpetual waiting.

We wait for arguments to be resolved and peace to be restored; for bitterness to ebb and pain to flow away. Season after season we await the budding of the spring, and the gathering of the harvest; the coming of the storm and the clearing of the sky. Sleepless after midnight, we wait for time itself to pass until the coming of the dawn. Exhausted by the day, we wait for the blessing of darkness, and the restorative powers of sleep.

Always, we wait for laughter; for love; and for the simple, unexpected gifts of life.

Always, there is a choice, and always, there are consequences. Like over-eager children before a pile of gifts, we are free to rush the season  — to rush our lives — and demand our satisfactions now, even though our willingness to slip away a ribbon, lift a bit of tape, and unfold a sheet of love-creased paper may destroy our joy.

In short, learning how to wait nurtures and deepens our humanity. From a certain perspective, waiting itself is the gift of Advent, the mysterious and compelling experience that arrives hand in hand with the merest whisper of possibility: “There might be presents…”

Comments always are welcome.

116 thoughts on “Wisdom: Gift-Wrapped and Waiting

  1. I too experienced the solitary and sneaky early peek. Likewise the guilt and disappointment on Christmas Day. You described it perfectly. Not a happy feeling. We are meant to wait. It really does make the arriving sweeter. Merry Christmas Linda. May the coming year bring you health and great joy, and bring all of your readers the bounty of your pen.

    1. It tickles me, but doesn’t suprise me, that you were my partner in Christmas crime.

      What we didn’t know as children is that there’s a world of difference between “I can’t wait for Christmas” and “I can’t wait for Christmas to be over.” Anticipation beats obligation hands down, every time. Fewer self-imposed holiday obligations and more sitting around, waiting to see what shows up wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. I hope wonderful things show up for you, Kayti. Merry Christmas.

  2. Gosh, your writing bought back a lot of memories of sneaking around the house looking for gifts. My brother and I one year unwrapped our gifts and wrapped them back up again. I don’t even remember what we found. But we didn’t do it the next year.

    1. Now, you have me wondering. Perhaps if I’d had a brother or sister to encourage me, I would have gone ever farther, and done a bit of actual unwrapping.

      It’s funny that you don’t remember what you found, either. And it tickles me that you didn’t try the same trick the next year. Live and learn, they say — and some of the best lessons can be learned pretty early on.

    1. Martha, it was impatience that once led me to peel open a flower bud, petal by tightly closed petal. Once I had it “opened,” I was chagrined and astonished to find there wasn’t a flower inside.

      It’s that way with so much of life. It’s better to let things unfold naturally, however difficult the waiting may be. Waiting for Christmas is the least of it.

  3. A child waiting for Christmas morning certainly sets a standard for anticipation and waiting tests and perhaps teaches patience, but even for adults, always, I think there has to be some kind of anticipation as a prelude to contentment and well being.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly, Terry. A person unable to anticipate the future — or unwilling to risk disappointment — misses a good bit. Your comment brought to mind a song I haven’t thought of in decades, but its most popular version was released when I was five. I didn’t realize until today that it was originally written in 1919, for a world that was going to have to learn to anticipate good things again.

  4. Sneaking peeks? Yes. No way would I have unwrapped anything, but I don’t think we had wrapped presents. I only remember the presents under a tree branch which was wrapped with green crepe paper on Christmas morning. I do remember where the gifts waited until that magical morning. We only had one closet. They were kept on the shelf at the top. I don’t know how I had courage to get up there to look! I was not a bold child!

    My mom’s little effort had a mighty effect. I don’t remember her ever spanking me, and I never heard a curse word from her. She just had authority! Wrong, I did get one spanking and she used a comb to swat the top of my head for my grumbling while she combed my hair.

    Linda, this is a fantastic post. As always it fills me with much appreciation for your use of words, thoughts, analogies, object lessons, knowledge and wisdom. I sure would like to write like you when I grow up!

    1. Your mention of comb-swats and spanking reminded me of my mother’s weapon of choice. Remember wooden cheese boxes? The lids slid out, and when applied to a child’s bottom would reverberate nicely. Once or twice was all it took for me to learn. After that, all she had to do was bring out the lid, or ask if I thought she should go look for it.

      While you say you weren’t a bold child, it seems there’s something about the excitement of Christmas that’s a great equalizer. The timid grow bold, the class clown tones it down, the lazy one volunteers to take out the trash. A little concern about that list of the naughty and nice wasn’t entirely a bad thing.

      I’m glad you appreciate my writing, Oneta. I’d only say: write like yourself. The world needs your voice far more than it needs two of mine. That’s one reason I don’t pour over how-to-write books. I might be wrong, but I still prefer the Bon Jovi approach to things. It’s my life, and my writing, and (as he notes in the song) there’s a great deal of pleasure in doing it my way. You’re finding your way, as well.

  5. I don’t recall that we explored our parents’ closets in search of secret Christmas presents when we were kids. What I do remember is looking permanently at the clock on the wall waiting for midnight to dash to the living room where we knew our present would be beneath the glittering Christmas tree.

    In those early days we deeply believed in “el Niño Diós” for it has He who brought all those brightly colored boxes. We didn’t know who Santa Claus was until much later in life, when we knew he was just a commercial trick from Madison Avenue.

    Our parents, were magicians in hiding those Christmas presents. Even to this day, they never told us how they did it. The fact is that at midnight sharp, the presents were there cuddled under the Christmas tree.

    Before I close this comment, I would like to express my deep admiration of your exquisite writing style. You are absolutely a “word weaver”. You make the English language dazzle like Christmas lights. Thank you Linda for all you excellent literary work during the year.

    Christmas blessings,

    Omar.-

    1. Our routine was a little different. We opened gifts from out-of-town relatives on Christmas eve. Then, on Christmas morning, we opened presents from Santa and the immediate family.
      I always left cookies and milk for Santa, too — until my father suggested that Santa might like 7-Up, instead. It was years until I figured out that he was mixing a little Seagram’s into the 7-Up, and Mom was eating the cookies.

      As for Santa? Well, let me put it this way. This was no commercial trick from Madison Avenue. Santa came to visit me every single year on Christmas eve, before he began his other deliveries in the area. I remember one of my first gifts: a floating rubber duck soap dish. On his last visit, when I was in college, he brought some Chanel No.5. Santa’s no fool. There’s actually qiute a story behind the whole thing. Maybe I’ll get to it next year.

      I can’t think of a nicer compliment than for my writing to be compared to Christmas lights. Thank you, Omar — and a merry Christmas to you, your wife, and the Twisters. I’m sure they’re excited by now, too.

      Linda

  6. Oh yes, those last few days before Christmas and the endless wait for the evening of Holy Night. The back of the wardrobe was the preferred hiding place for my presents too and at least one year I sneaked a ‘preview’. I never unwrapped any present but I felt around the edges of the package to guess at its contents: Hurrah, that feels like a book!

    When I was really small and still believed that the Christ Child (Christkind) left my presents under the tree I wouldn’t have thought to look before the big night. After all, the presents only arrived then and not a day earlier!

    Advent was always a special time then (I believe it still is for many people in Germany) and although commercialism is rife, the old Advent rituals are still observed: The baking of Christmas cookies and the Stollen, the lighting of candles, the singing of songs purely relevant to the period, the cosy afternoons and telling of tales.

    Bitter-sweet memories.

    1. Oh, my. Poking, prodding, shaking, and holding to the light were perfectly acceptable in our house. Trying to guess was part of the fun, and somehow, even if you discovered on Christmas morning that you’d guessed correctly, it never took away from the experience.

      So many customs still were observed in those days. Friends from a nearby Dutch town put out wooden shoes for Sinterklaas; we Swedes had Santa Lucia.But all of it was encircled by Advent: so beautifully symbolized by the wreath. It’s only been in recent years that I discovered the great O Antiphons, and recognized them as the basis for my favorite Advent hymn: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

      One of the things I most like about Advent is that no one yet seems to have found a way to commercialize it. I’m sure in some back office, someone is working.

      Of course, the poets have captured this sense of waiting, too. Who could do better than the esteemed Mr. Eliot?

      “I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
      For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
      For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
      But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
      Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
      So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”

    1. No, there aren’t any rules. Sometimes circumstances dictate how long the waiting will be — until December 25th, until a birthday, until the day of graduation — but sometimes there is no guidance at all. The first examples that came to mind are my cactus. There’s no predicting when they’ll bloom again. When the time (kairos, not chronos) is right, they’ll bloom.

      It’s interesting that you raise the issue of waiting too long. I can think of a few times when I’ve done that, too — generally to no good effect.

  7. I usually save your writing for the quiet of early Sunday mornings. I felt a pang of guilt for reading this today – but I will enjoy it just as much when I reread it tomorrow.

    Perhaps the saddest thing about childish guilt is that children grow out of it.

    1. And isn’t it interesting that in a culture where so many are attempting to shame others, or are claiming that they’ve been victims of shaming themselves, legitimate shame seems to have gone the way of appropriate guilt.

      Don’t worry about opening the blog early. Slap a little tape on the end and recurl the ribbon, and no one ever will know.

    1. I’m so glad you found it meaningful, Rosemary. So often waiting feels like a trial and a tribulation; this is the season of post office lines, after all.

      But Wednesday, waiting at the post office, I watched a young man hold the door for a very much older man, and help him with his parcels. The older man said, “Thank you.” And wonder of wonders, the young man said, “You’re welcome.” And everyone smiled.

  8. You got me, Linda! I, too, recall sneaking a peek before Christmas (though in all honesty, I maintain it was the result of my sister’s nudging!) Funny how one sneaky act can either lead someone down the “dark side” or convince them to reform their ways!

    This is delightful on so many levels. I love peeking into your past, with the remembrance of long-ago times. I love how you come full circle into the reminder that Advent is a time of waiting, that we can’t (and shouldn’t) rush the season. Waiting isn’t easy — perhaps that’s why we need Advent so much, to remind us that patience is a virtue.

    Thank you for stirring up some memories of my own. Funny how, today at least, Domer too is a “waiter,” and he’s never confessed sneaking into my favorite hiding places to shake boxes and such! Merry Christmas, my dear friend!

    1. But here comes the question of the day, Debbie. What about Dallas? I hate to admit it, but any little gift for Dixie Rose that involves catnip has to stay in the car until the big day. Otherwise, she sniffs it out, and there’s no peace until she gets what she wants. I’m sure Dallas is far more sophisticated and mature.

      One of the downsides of being an only child was having no one to point a finger at when it came time to explain myself. You were lucky to have that sister — although I suspect she might have been inclined to do a little finger-pointing, herself.

      As for patience, I’m fairly well convinced that our tecnological age is eroding our ability to slow down, to be patient with aspects of life that are even less controllable than a computer. I see it in my customers, sometimes. They’re accustomed to immediacy, and it can be hard for them to comprehend the fact that varnish will dry on its own schedule. You can’t speed it up — which may be why I like it so much.

      Merry Christmas to you and Domer. I know it will be a good one.

      1. Merry Christmas back to you, Linda! We don’t put Dallas’s presents under the tree — Shelties have a good nose, and he’d dig them out in a flash, then scatter them all over the house!

        I appreciate your comments about patience. My clients are much like your customers — they, too, tend to believe in instant web design (and that can’t look or work decently!!)

  9. Linda,
    I’ve always been one to delay gratification. I have a vague memory of crawling under the bed and poking a hole in a gift, but I was barely out of the toddler phase. I have a more concrete memory of watching my friend unwrap every single present under the tree that bore her name. We were teenagers, and it was only a few days before Christmas. I knew she would regret it. I could never have done it. There wasn’t an ounce of guile in me, which I think is a little boring. I have one grand – the oldest – who can’t resist exploring when she knows presents are about. We hide them in the back of H’s truck in the garage. Closets would never stop her.

    What a great story this is. Thanks for telling us.

    1. I can’t even imagine doing what your friend did, Bella. It must have been an awful Christmas for her: or so I imagine. On the other hand, when you said you’ve always been one to delay gratification, my first thought was, “Yes, I can see that — unless lobster or soft-shell crabs are involved!” All of us have our limits, after all — and you have that brother to tempt you off the straight and narrow. :-)

      I don’t think guilelessness is boring. It think it’s refreshing. I know people who claim being nice is boring, not to mention being polite, courteous, and respectful. So be it. I’ll take that world over much of what I witness around me, any day.

      The truck in the garage is a good one. Just wait until all three grands put their heads together, and start working as a team. You and H won’t stand a chance.

  10. Your focus on the Advent season is something I’ve admired about you since you gifted me an advent calendar several years ago. A tradition I tried to instill with my children when they were still young and impressionable, were tangible calendars with an Advent message for every day leading up to Christmas morning reminiscent of the waiting, the anticipation, that the shepherds experienced until they, too, found the Christ child waiting.

    Advent teaches us to learn to wait, to be patient, for what is to come, a valuable life lesson. I, too, ventured into my parents’ closet when I was about six years old. I always wanted a pony, and when I sneaked a peek into only one package, it held two decorative ceramic horse heads waiting to grace my bedroom wall. Yes, I remember being disappointed in the gift, but Advent gave me the time to figure out how to be grateful for the gift, even though it wasn’t a real live pony!

    So, there’s something to be said about learning while we wait, living life each day as it comes, relishing each season as it comes full bloom and to mourn its passing; but just wait, because another season full of its promise is right behind. Happy Advent, Linda.

    1. When you mentioned Advent’s counsel of patience as a valuable life lesson, the first thing that came to mind was my years of caring for my mother. The elderly and children require huge amounts of patience, as do others with particular needs. It’s not always easy to cope in such situations, but I think the lessons of the season can help.

      I was so surprised to read that you once had wanted a pony, but then I remembered that you haven’t always been a bayou woman. A pony would have done well for you where you grew up — no wonder you wanted one. I’m sure it was hard for our parents, from time to time: knowing what we wanted, and not being able to provide it. Still, we profited from the experience, as you so rightly point out.

      You’ve been so busy in NOLA with the new project. I suspect it will be hard to wait now, to see how things develop. But you’re right — develop they will. By the time the new season rolls around, there’s no telling what will be blooming.

      Enjoy the coming celebrations — I hope you get to see all the kids, at least for a time.

  11. My wife tells a similar tale, but I have no memory of such.

    I especially like your attention to our refusal of delayed gratification. I remember, for instance, the first time I picked up a piece of simple Latin in situ and read a paragraph without use of a grammar or dictionary. I nearly fell off my chair with delight. But how do you communicate these deep delights? Many people know nothing of them, and there is little or no cultural support for waiting. Advent is more than meets the eye!

    1. In turn, I like the way you’ve connected the learning process with patience and delayed gratification. The pleasure of suddenly-realized competence is real, and when it’s taken some time, the delight only increases.

      It’s common enough to tell students they need to delay other pleasures in order to facilitate learning, but it’s hard to explain to them that learning itself can be a pleasure., I’m not sure you can communicate that. On the other hand, once it’s experienced, the same delight you enjoyed with your Latin paragraph becomes a great motivator. It makes all those hours with “sum, es, est, sumus, estis, sunt” worth it. (And somewhere, Miss Wilcox, 8th grade Latin teacher extraordinaire, is smiling.)

  12. You truly have outdone yourself on this one. I feel like I’ve received my Christmas gift early, and it’s all I hoped for. Many thanks, Linda, and Merriest Christmas to you.

    1. You’re welcome, Sammy, and Merry Christmas to you, too. I just got home from watching a thousand or so ibis take off into the morning sunrise, and it occurred to me that gifts do, indeed, abound: for us all.

  13. Anticipating and waiting can be good. But our minds churn and build expectations that might be impossible to meet.

    Our house was full with 9 kids. There was no good place in it to hide presents. I discovered that some were hidden in the old unused coal shed next to the house. Some were even hidden in the outhouse. No one used it in the depths of cold December. We had an indoor ‘facility’ on the back porch.

    1. Parents’ creativity can be marvelous to behold. Eventually, I learned that some presents were kept at our neighbors’ home — the same neighbors whose open house I mentioned above. Nothing could have been kept in the coal room in our basement — it was full of coal — but using that outhouse was pure genius.

      It’s true that unreasonable expectations can bring disappointment. But in the end, learning to deal with disappointment’s probably as important as learning patience. We certainly get plenty of opportunities to do both.

  14. On reading this, I began to think what I associate with the word “waiting” and came up with what one spends time doing that vastly exceeds the value of or certainly joy in the waited-for result: waiting in lines, waiting for doctor’s appointments, waiting on hold on the telephone for tech support to answer. Well, you get the idea.

    Yet I agree whole-heartedly with the sentiment you express here, beautifully exemplified by your childhood recollection (and by what you didn’t recall–what was in the box). I’m still pondering what word I might use to express that lovely sense of anticipation one shouldn’t want to squander or shorten, but the word doesn’t come. So I must wait.

    1. Oh, yes. There are those other kinds of waiting: annoying, interminable, unnecessary, irritating. And then, of course, there’s waiting for Comcast to do anything, which takes the experience to a whole different level.

      I spent a little time trying to come up with that other, more adequate word, and I haven’t been able to, either. So, we’ll ponder on, while we wait for it to reveal itself. To quote a difficult someone:

      “Whatever we’re dealing with catches us
      in mid-reconsideration. It’s beautiful
      my lord, just not made to be repeated,
      that’s all.”

  15. “Waiting is the condition of our lives.” —>

    “On His Blindness,” by John Milton.

    When I consider how my light is spent
    Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
    And that one talent which is death to hide
    Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
    To serve therewith my Maker, and present
    My true account, lest he returning chide;
    “Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
    I fondly ask. But Patience to prevent
    That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
    Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
    Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
    Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
    And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
    They also serve who only stand and wait.”

    1. What a perfect addition to any discussion of waiting, particularly since Milton hints at an experience that’s of a different order entirely: learning to wait without anticipation of waiting’s end.

      I’ve not thought of this poem in some time. Having had a brush with impaired vision, I certainly read it differently than I did in high school. It’s a good reminder that revisiting the classics — in art, music, literature — always is worthwhile.

  16. At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll say that the number 28 is (at least) doubly interesting. It’s a so-called perfect number because its proper divisors add up to the number itself:

    1 + 2 + 4 + 7 + 14 = 28.

    28 is also a triangular number:


    • •
    • • •
    • • • •
    • • • • •
    • • • • • •
    • • • • • • •

    Another way of saying it is that the first seven counting numbers add up to 28.

    1. Ah, ha! And 55 is a triangular number — which helps to explain why the visual form of 28 looked so familiar. Three more lines, and it would be an etheree.

      As for 28, it could play a role in a fun children’s story: perfect numbers meet the imperfect child.

      As long as we’re having fun with math, how about this little treat from the Dudley Nature Center? I was going to save it for March 14, but an intersection of math and botany is too good to save.

      1. Your picture will make a math person hap-pi.

        I remember our discussion of the 55 syllables in an etheree. I don’t think I mentioned one of the patterns in the triangular numbers, namely the alternating pairs of odd and even numbers:

        1 – odd
        3 – odd
        6 – even
        10 – even
        15 – odd
        21- odd
        28 – even
        36 – even
        etc.

  17. Every now and then that memory of the hiding place pops into my mind: My brother and sister and I peeking through the gap in the door of a small storage room in the basement. Oooos and ahhhs and shhhh! Someone’s coming!

    And then the tradition of opening only one present each on Christmas eve. And I think only about the week of Christmas did the presents make an appearance under the tree. For me, the wrappings, colors, designs, and lights were more memorable than the gifts. Except for my GI Joes, whom I adored. :^)

    Nice memory.

    1. It’s interesting to think back to the gifts that made the biggest impression. I liked the building toys, like Tinker Toys and the Elgo plastic bricks. Those bricks were the last toy to go (unless you count Raggedy Ann.) I passed them on to a friend, for her grandchildren to play with when they visit.

      The wrappings were a big deal in our family, and decorations that were added to packages never were thrown away. In fact, I have some white, glittery poinsettias made of plastic that have been tied onto packages for over fifty years. Once they made it back to me a few years ago, I hung on to them, and put them only on gifts for my mother, so I could be sure they were saved.

  18. the twenty-eighth board… what a wonderful detail.
    We’re up on the farm in a community of childhood neighbors who watch out for one another…and flushed from bed this morning by a farm neighbors knock on the door. Someone who’s seen us in nightclothes before and to whom it doesn’t matter. Cliff fixed coffee and we caught up on news.
    I sent off boxes of banana bread before we left the city. My far flung boys will be happy.
    Maybe the gift of the elder years is this ability to slow down and savour.
    A lovely post. Thank you so much.

    1. One of the best things about getting up to the hill country is visiting the neighbors. One by one, they’re disappearing, but those of us who are left still talk about them, so they certainly aren’t forgotten.

      And you’ve reminded me of the great value of a long lane. From the minute you hear tires on gravel, you know exactly how much time you have to throw on some clothes and start putting the coffee on before whoever’s visiting hits the front door.

      Age certainly can encourage slowing down. Sometimes, it forces a slower pace. But to savor or not is still our choice. Remembering that’s the trick, I suppose.

      A blessed Christmas to you. It looks like gorgeous weather up there — I know you’ll enjoy it.

  19. When we went on those summer vacations in the 1950’s and visited all the national parks like Yellowstone, Brice, Mesa Verde, and the Grand Canyon, there were in the souvenir shops the “surprise” gifts — wrapped packages that you bought for a set price without knowing what they contained. My dad would always buy one, and it would drive us nuts wondering what was in it. He would wait until Christmas to open it. I could not, at the time, understand how he could wait that long. Now I do. Time teaches patience and one learns to savor the anticipation. I don’t remember hunting for Christmas presents. I do remember one Christmas in particular when I got a Walt Disney coloring book and a box of 64 Crayolas and being so happy when my dad, at my request, colored one of the pages, because he “shaded” the figure to give it dimension. I must have been about 8.

    You did indeed learn valuable lessons that Christmas, and received a gift you unwillingly gave yourself.

    1. I can’t remember ever coming across those “surprise” gifts. It’s a neat idea, though — rather like the grab-bag gifts we used to exchange. I’m not sure I could have followed your dad’s lead and waited until Christmas, but I’ll agree that it would be easier now than when I was younger.

      I suppose every generation has its favorite gifts. As I recall, those boxes of 64 crayons ranked near the top for my friends and me. And like you, I had a dad who was willing to spend a little time at the coloring book. What a gift that was. The best part is, the memories remain, even though the crayons and coloring books are long gone.

  20. I can’t remember peeking Linda, but surely I did, and probably under my older brother’s prompting. He was mischief personified. Peggy tells me she slipped into her parents closet once and discovered some ice skates she was getting. Her reaction was much as you described, and she only did it once.

    I like anticipation. I can easily put down a book at its most exciting place because I know it will be there later and I will be excited to read on. As always, I love your writing. May you have a very happy Christmas, my friend. –Curt

    1. Oh, those siblings. Of course it would take an older brother to persuade you to choose the low road over the high — gven that you don’t have a single mischievous bone in your body!

      As for Peggy’s experience — I think that would be worse than snooping around and taking a peek at a wrapped package. Finding a big treasure, unwrapped, would just be sad. You don’t even get a frisson of excitement with that.

      It’s certainly been a good year for you. I suspect the second book will be as good as your first. I’m anticipating that, too.

      Merry Christmas to you and Peggy, and all of your assorted kin. No doubt there will be tales to tell in the New Year — with photos, yes?

      1. Darn, caught again. Aren’t we always supposed to have someone to blame for our misbehavior? And Marshall doesn’t even have a computer. There is no way for him to repute my claim. :)
        I did tell Peggy to stay out of the room where all of her presents reside. I’d better get them wrapped and under the tree today.
        It was a good year, Linda. I am excited to jump into the next book. My goal is to blog it. Plans are being made— a 10,000 mile road trip to follow the route of my bike trip (including across Texas), a 250 mile backpack trip to remind me of my backpacking adventures, and lots of Burning Man.
        A very Merry Christmas to you and your family as well.May it be filled with laughter and peace. —Curt

    1. Thanks, Yvonne, and Merry Christmas to you, too. I used to get a little sentimental about Christmas. Now, I mostly enjoy remembering the goodness of the past and the pleasures of the present (pun sort of intended).

      We can’t know what the future will bring, so we might as well not worry ourselves about that — and a new year is coming. Here’s hoping it’s a good one for us both.

      By the way, there’s a full moon at Christmas this year. It looks like we might have clear skies for it, at least on Christmas eve, so have a look. It won’t be around again for a while.

  21. Oddly, I never really wanted to open anything. I was fine with surprises and enjoyed looking at all the packages under the tree with tree lights glinting off of the shiny wrapping paper. I loved holding, turning and shaking the packages though to guess what might be in there. My son, Dave, though let me know in no uncertain terms that he hated surprises and didn’t see the need or point of waiting!!

    I suppose waiting is hard for the computer generation who has the internet to answer even the most esoteric of questions with a few keystrokes. Instant gratification and no trips to the library to look things up.

    I remember during my Robert Heinlein days that I’d sign off letters with “until waiting is filled”… Waiting itself has a duration which must be spent before something happens or you could say waiting is a void which has to be filled up first…especially before something you are looking forward to!

    Waiting will be filled soon as Christmas is nearly here!!

    1. A friend and I were talking about Christmas caroling last night, and how much we enjoyed it. I wonder if part of the reason presents became less important as we grew older is that other Christmas activities absorbed some of our excitement and made the waiting easier.

      While I think you’re right about the computer generation, it’s worth noting that many questions answered via an online search end up with wrong answers. I’ve become more and more picky (and suspicious) when it comes to online sources. There’s so much frank misinformation it’s a little unnerving — particularly since so many people seem willing to accept the first answer they find. I’ve been fooled myself, many times. I always resolve to be even more careful, but it can be hard. Those trips to the library still are necessary.

      Tomorrow, I’m going to try a different kind of waiting myself — a kind that you’d enjoy. Our winter flock of ibis, egrets, and assorted other birds has shown up on a canal not far from me. They roost there at night. I went over this morning to try some photos, but I was late, even at 6:45. They’d already started flying, and more than half of them were gone. The photos aren’t good — too far away, too rushed, still too dark — but I’ll try again. Here’s the whole flock, and here are some of the ibis flying.

      If you look at the flock, you’ll see the ibis are mostly near the top,and the egrets seem to be nearer the water. I didn’t realize how evenly divided they were. The ibis flew first this morning, and then the egrets, after sunrise. They’re fun to watch.

      1. Pictures look nice though… a lot like the places bird roost around here when you get a chance to see them gather. Late day is show time and it is fun to watch them zooming in from parts unknown.

        Yeah, I have experienced some of that internet misinformation. Have to cross reference sources to make sure that information you are getting is actually worthwhile. I have not been to a library in ages and find myself buying more books than I check out. That is probably bad for me and good for Barnes and Noble!!

        In commenting that I didn’t really fall prey to ‘peeking’ at gifts weirdly preferring to shake rattle and roll the mysterious bundles doesn’t mean that I don’t remember how terribly badly I felt those times I did do something I felt was wrong. Those feelings are so magnified in children too and I think there is a purpose in that for shaping our characters.

        1. You’re right that late day is show time. I didn’t try for photos tonight, as it was even more gray and gloomy, but I got there early enough to see the flocks whizzing in. It’s the most amazing thing, as you know. They fly in groups, and they fly fast. Then, they seem to put on the brakes just before landing — or one misses and does a fly-around.

          I was going to ask you what you think about this one. Originally, I thought it was a glossy ibis, but now I think it’s a non-breeding adult white-faced ibis. What say you? I think you have more of these than we do. This is the first I’ve ever seen.

          Your mention of buying books reminds me that I should do a Kindle update some day. My bottom line? I’ve found it a useful tool in particular circumstances, but I still prefer a book. I don’t like it at all for poetry, because it often re-arranges the form. And I can’t do much research with it, because the books or journals I want aren’t available. So, I have it, and I don’t regret having it, but I’m glad it wasn’t any more expensive than it was.

            1. Oh, yea! I’m so glad to know that. It’s beautiful. If the weather clears sometime over the holidays, I’m going back to the wildlife preserve where I found it, just to see what might be going on. Merry Christmas!

  22. Oh, those hanging shoe holders! Gads. Great Christmas post: touches the common human experiences.

    Long story about kids and packages unattended – perhaps my next years Dec. post. My brother has NEVER forgotten it…but like Judy above, I enjoyed just seeing the tree and all – knew the packages would always be a let down by comparison. We never had many presents as that wasn’t what Christmas was supposed to be about.

    (Gads where did these damp clouds come from. Sun come back!)

    1. Old closets were the best, especially on second floors, where the roofline could create strange nooks, and there wasn’t a wire basket in sight. Closets were good for reading books with a flashlight, and growing mold on jello for science projects.

      I used to have one of those radium crosses that gets mentioned in this article. It was great for reading in the closet if my folks took my flashlight away. I had some of the other toys, too, like the glowing skull that went on top of a pencil. After we figured out that radium wasn’t so good, it all got tossed, except for the alarm clock with the radium dial.

      The one thing I can’t avoid at Christmas is a nice, leisurely scan through the Vermont Country Store catalogue. So many of the things that were part of those early celebrations — ribbon candy, candles shaped like carolers — still are available there. it’s fun to look, and remember.

      Maybe we should ask Santa for holiday sunshine. On the other hand, we might not have been good enough.

      1. Ribbon candy! I’ve been looking for that. It’s not Christmas without that old fashioned assortment of candy you used to get in bags…the stuff that in moist climates would form giant lumps if you didn’t eat it fast enough. That is a great catalogue (where is mine? sob)

          1. Looking for that serpentine “w” with 2 stripes, the pineapple shaped ones, the red cherry and red hot, and the clovis-ish yellow ones (not the gold ones – they were different). An assorted bag is somewhere waiting for me…hope I find it before they glue together and form a brick.Thanks for the link

  23. I enjoyed this story very much. It seems that such a lesson might be worth the disappointment and discomfort that came with it. In any case, my best wishes for a very happy holiday, and all the pleasures that come with it these days… Most of all, the sense of community and happiness shared with family and friends.

    1. Thank you, Shimon. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Of course the lesson was worth the price paid, though I didn’t know it at the time. Looking back, I realize the experience was only a first lesson in patience; it seems the important lessons of life have to be learned and re-learned, time after time.

      You’re exactly right that celebration within community, with family and friends, is the best holiday pleasure there is. It’s a wonderful time of year, and it’s wonderful that celebrations still take place.

  24. Beautifully written, as usual. I agree with believing in the beauty of Advent, yet I think children with stronger curiosities will always find a way to demystify concepts which are sophisticated. When you say “…an overwhelming desire for immediate gratification and an inability to trust” sounds familiar to me. In my case, we were often given what we wrote on a list, so even when seeing the gifts wrapped, we could more or less imagine what it was. However, I remember having unwrapped a gift that was left by my aunt. I carefully wrapped it up really well afterwards, but for some gifts I couldn’t wait.

    1. Children’s curiosity is a marvel, and their ability to approach the world without guile or preconception is equally marvelous. Recapturing some of those child-like qualities is necessary for creativity, I think. Is it possible? The words of Bob Dylan’s song, “My Back Pages,” come to mind: “Ah, but I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now.”

      Like you, many of my friends had what they called wish lists, or lists for Santa. I surely made lists, too, but I don’t remember them. It’s a fact that my favorite gifts never would have landed on a list, because I didn’t know they existed. One year, I got a little, suitcase-styled record player, with some red and yellow vinyl records. One of them told the story of Gerald McBoingBoing, a young man Theodor Geisel created before he became Dr. Seuss.

      Have you ever seen any of those cartoons? Probably not. This one’s from 1951, when I was five. Funny — Gerald had a gift, too, but his folks were the ones who had to be patient while he unwrapped it.

      1. Thanks for sharing this marvelous cartoon. It’s amazing how sophisticated this type of cartoon was, compared to what came later (looney tunes). It had more finesse, and simplicity. It also depicted its characters more realistically.

        What amazes me is that even when I had scientific interests (telescopes, magnifying glass, or astronomy), I still believed in Santa Claus, even when my sister who was older told me he didn’t exist. Our Spanish tradition of celebrating ‘Three King’s Day” had us playing with the figures of Nativity scenes, such as these.

        Nativity sets are displayed all over the island after Christmas, and this helped us understand Christianity a whole lot better than if we didn’t have these sets to plays with.

          1. Epiphany is what is called, January 6 observed as a church festival in commemoration of the coming of the Magi as the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles or in the Eastern Church in commemoration of the baptism of Christ. Here it’s called ‘Three King’s Day’.

          2. I like that one from Peru. I just found the name of the nativities my Sicilian friend talks about: “Presepe.” There are small ones, for the home, and some that are life-sized, found in churches and public squares. I really like them, because everyone is included. The innkeepers, gossiping women, soldiers, all are there.

            1. Thanks. Yes, here they also like to make a little theater at shopping malls (with real people and barn animals) acting out a nativity scene; and in smaller towns of the island they have actual carnavals with the three kings and a nativity scene live with real people.

        1. Several friends from different traditions — from Panama, Sicily, Spain — have told me of their nativity sets, and the traditions associated with them. One woman said that each day they would move the Three Kings a little closer to the stable, until, on Epiphany, they finally would arrive.

          Other friends grew up giving gifts on Epiphany. I can’t remember if they were Orthodox (who celebrate Christmas in January because of a calendar difference) or if there was another reason.

          I never came across King’s cake until I moved down here. It’s especially common in Louisiana, and is associated with the time between Epiphany and Mardi Gras. So many traditions to enjoy!

          1. Here children have to collect grass for the camels the night before Epiphany. They put it in a shoebox under the bed as a pre-requisite for getting the gifts. The gifts are placed right were the boxes of grass were, and this tradition continues up to this day.

  25. Nothing is the same as in our days (in our childhood days)… Beautifully expressed, dear Linda. I think I can understand your feelings. May the coming year bring you health and great joy, Merry Christmas dear Linda, Thank you, love, nia

    1. You’re right that things have changed, Nia — and we’ve changed, too. But the most important things don’t have to change: family, love, traditions. Thank you so much for your Christmas greetings, and best wishes to you for a happy and much more peaceful New Year! ~ Linda

  26. Yes, very good point. The value of waiting. My opinion is that delayed gratification is still gratification. Buying Christmas presents, I’m afraid to say, is more contributing to boost the economy, which is needed for us Canadians living in recession, but from an individual perspective, let’s face it, what more do we need, really?

    I can totally understand the sentimental and emotional values in gifts, but, for me to buy more for myself, or the house? I’d rather save myself some troubles. I’m already having a hard time trying to get rid of stuff, all these excess belongings. Anyway, just to take the opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas season (I know it’s not just one day), Linda!

    1. Arti, it occurs to me that we’re both fans of a “slow Christmas.” It makes sense that some of the same dynamics that inform such movements as slow blogging and slow food could show up elsewhere: even in celebrations.

      And what a good point you’ve made: that delayed gratification still is gratification. That’s one of those things that’s so obvious once you say it, but we don’t often hear it put in exactly that way.

      The older I get, the more I appreciate the value of gift-giving: not just at Christmas, but especially then. Learning to take pleasure in giving is as important as learning to receive graciously. Without those experiences, I suspect we’re far less able to understand grace, in all its depth and expansiveness.

      It’s wonderful that Christmas is a season, rather than a day. Even after the world’s moved on to the after-Christmas sales, we still have a full twelve days to enjoy. Merry Christmas!

  27. It takes a certain sensitivity in a child to recognize how the anticipated day was spoiled. Loved your descriptions of those parental closets ;-)

    One year, I thought I was being clever by hiding roomie’s present in plain sight (a book among many on the shelves). But it wasn’t until June or July when she found the book, unwrapped and un-given because I’d forgotten to give it to her at Christmas!

    1. It takes less sensitivity in the child when the lesson’s so obvious. I think I must have spent quite a bit of time in those closets. I certainly remember them well — along with the contents of the cedar chest.

      That’s such a fun story about the gift book. It’s a variation on our family’s tradition of a jello salad left in the refrigerator, undiscovered until the leftovers went back into the fridge. The 1950s provided many good memories, but those jello salads aren’t among them. Maybe they were “forgotten” because no one really wanted to eat them.

  28. What a marvelous post. I did enjoy the transgression from being an impatient child to developing into a wise adult. I was the same as a kid, and I’m sad to say that I repeated “peeking” for many, many years. These days I am the personification of patience, I thinks it’s because I genuinely don’t want anything. The natural world is enough for me.xxx

    1. One experience of Christmas snooping was enough for me, but snooping is a transferable skill. For years, my mom struggled to find a hiding place for the chocolate chips, and never succeeded for long. I developed good clmbing skills, looking for those things.

      I can’t say I don’t want anything — I can think of a couple of relatively big-ticket items I’d like to have. But these days, there’s as much pleasure in working toward the goal of purchase as there was in waiting to be surprised by Santa. I suppose that’s part of growing up, too.

      There’s a good bit of wisdom in recognizing how many gifts the world offers daily. If only more people could see that, as you do. Merry Christmas!

  29. Beautiful, Linda. Your “lessons” are true ones, ones about which I worry in a culture where youth waits for no one. Instant messaging and who knows what all else. There is great anticipation and joy in waiting, wondering, pondering.

    This post reminded me of the time when — at about age 9 — my cousin David and I found “The Lie Detector Game” under my parents’ bed. Yes, I think we were looking. No, I didn’t tell. Yes, I acted surprised and so did David. And yes, I felt guilty as all get out.

    Even though it sometimes wears me out, I love that Christmas (or the Christmas season) seems to go on and on. OK, I don’t like it starting before Halloween and I’m not all that fond of too much before Thanksgiving. But I love the waiting till I can throw caution to the wind and decorate with abandon, bake without guilt, connect with those near and far. I want that season to go on and on, a time when people say hello to strangers and gifts are unexpected. Random acts of kindness, unexpected delights. This year I’m struggling a bit with changes and not feeling up to par. And yet I still long to spot the perfect “thing” for someone, the kind of “thing” you don’t plan to find, perhaps don’t even need to add to the list. I think of the cocktail napkins that were the best gift I ever gave to a friend. We had other packages, all more valuable, but none more fun. And I’m so glad there was no peeking for seeing the joy was worth it all!

    Merriest of merries to you, my friend. May the new year continue with writing as rich and thoughtful as this — for you see, that is the greatest gift you give us all.

    1. It isn’t just the youth who refuse to wait, as you know. And we’re all being shoved along the road to distraction by those whose gadgets now dominate our lives, and who profit from our distraction. I was reminded this morning of Wendell Berry’s famous screed against the computer. I’ll not be giving up my computer any time soon, but I understand his impulse, and feel the same about the world of constant connection via text and etc.

      I couldn’t stop laughing when I read that you’d found the “Lie Detector Game” under the bed. I suppose the irony of that didn’t occur to you at the time, but it’s pretty funny now.

      Like you, I love the Christmas season. The Twelve Days of Christmas are my time to enjoy, though. I’ll send cards and exchange gifts right up to Epiphany, and do it happily. By the time I get my Stollen baked, the stores will have moved on to Valentine’s Day. So be it. They have their agenda, I have none, apart from sharing the joys of the season in my own little quirky ways.

      I would consider nagging at you a little about trying to do too much, but clearly that’s akin to trying to persuade Rudoph to take the night off because he has a cold. Now that your traveling’s done, I hope you can relax, and enjoy all that beauty you’ve created for yourself and others. Merry Christmas!

      1. Yes, Rudolf and I are tough to argue with! Well, some self-imposed relaxation as an ice storm is coming in and has already started. Regretfully, I may have to cancel my relaxing massage but better safe than sorry after last week’s adventures on ice. Two hours, eight miles. No thank you!

        Yes, I’m still wrapping presents and hopefully getting to the post office tomorrow, depending on roads. I’ll take down the Santas after Twelfth Night and bring up the snowfolk and the trees will come down sooner or later. But I love the lights; they brighten the dark, cloudy days and the only schedule is mine!

        Stollen. Sounds wonderful!

        (And no, we didn’t get the irony of the Lie Detector Game then — pity!)

        1. I heard an interview this afternoon with a woman who was stuck out toward El Paso for fifteen hours. Needless to say, those folks were happy when the rescue crews showed up. I don’t know how it is now, but when we traveled in winter, we always had water, food, blankets, tinned candles, sand and a shovel. Today, there have been great improvements in survival gear, but remembering to take it is just as important!

          I’m with you on the lights, and the candles. I’ve noticed that no one around me has taken down their lights yet. I’m glad — they’re pretty, and once the wind dies, their reflections will be so pretty.

          It’s cold but sunny here now, and tomorrow the wind should lay. I’m looking forward to a few days’ work before New Year’s. I’ll be glad when I can get back to a regular schedule, despite loving the holidays as I do.

  30. As usual, I have followed several trains of thought over the past few days as I’ve re-read your blog and caught up with the thoughtful comments. These lines have stayed with me: “From birth to death, from our coming in to our going out of this amazing, implausible world, we live our lives in a state of perpetual waiting.”

    My elderly mother seems to be waiting patiently. She seems content to drift through the hours of each day, enjoying a meal, watching the clouds, chatting on the phone, or just being. Although she’s not enthusiastic about living – not making plans for the future or wishing for more vitality – she also isn’t impatient to unwrap that final gift. I’ve had to learn to be patient enough to just keep her company as she waits – thanks to thoughts you had expressed as you sat with your mother during her final months.

    May your Christmas be warm and joyful!

    1. We’re going to be warm, for sure, NumberWise. Given the rain that’s forecast, that’s a good thing. If a cold front dropped down, it would be ice from here to who knows, and no one wants that for holiday travel.

      Your comments about your mother’s days certainly did bring back memories of that period of time with my own. What’s most interesting to me now as I look back is seeing the time when she finally decided she’d had enough, and was ready to move on. In retrospect, it’s perfectly clear. The challenge for the rest of us was to come to the same point. I’m so glad that I was able to make the necessary decisions when the time came.

      Right now, I’m waiting for the fog to lift so I can get a couple of hours of work in this morning — just enough to finish a project. Then, I have a toy to put together. I suspect it will take the rest of the day and night — but that’s a bit of a Christmas tradition, itself.

      Have an enjoyable Christmas. If it’s a white one, I hope it’s well-behaved!

  31. Oh what a lovely read on Christmas Eve. As a small child I recall waking in the night on Christmas morning and touching the stocking hanging from the bedpost just beside my head and feeling the knobbly fullness and knowing that Father Christmas had been. I never peeped. But I often squeezed the contents and tried to guess what lay within.

    And as for creaking floorboards…we’ve recently left a 150yr old house with creaky floorboards – navigating the house in the dark of night and managing to avoid the ‘creaks’ was like a game of chess that I used to take a particular delight in playing (there is always a small boy lurking within me!). We no longer have the old creaks but the house we have moved to has an inner wood frame (rather than a two-layer brick structure) and when the central heating switches on half an hour before I get up I hear the fame creak progressively as the water warms the pipes and the pipes and frame ever so subtly mismatch their expansion. My ears follow that metronomic creak round the house.

    A very Happy Christmas Linda – I love your writing and I have missed it in the last two months or so as the move has taken over our lives.

    1. Andy, I’m not sure I could have resisted, if the goodies had been that close. That’s one good reason to hang the stockings by the chimney with care, rather than on the bedpost, I suppose.

      Houses have personalities, for sure. One creaks, one sighs. Mine vibrates. When the wind gets up to 30-35 mph, I can’t feel the vibration in the structure, but I can see it in my computer monitor; it begins to shake, ever so slightly. The tin roof on the cabin in the hill country was akin to your new house. Its expansion and contraction could get your attention, especially in the middle of the night.

      I so much appreciate your kind words about my writing. I’m sure you’ll not only be happy to be reading others’ work now, but doing some new photography and posting of your own. It sounds as though you’ve fairly well dealt with the necessities of life. Now? It’s time for a little freedom!

  32. What a festive feast of reminiscence, poetry and wisdom! Thanks for this especially wise and wonderful post, Linda. It was so good to read your Eliot quote: he, of course, pitched the issue of waiting perfectly. And I realised on re-reading your commenter’s posting of Milton’s great poem on his blindness how much of that poem still remains in my memory.

    This morning being homebound with a persistently bad chesty cold, I had the delight as I lay in bed – waiting to feel like getting up – of listening to the actor Jeremy Irons’ masterly reading of Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”. That was certainly worth the waiting!

    Seasonal Blessings and every good wish to you and your community of readers for the coming year. May it bring much purposeful waiting, and many blessings!

    1. When it comes to time, memory, and history, Eliot is one of the best. Funny that you should mention the “Practical Cats.” I just read a lovely piece about Edward Gorey’s illustrations for the volume. I’m a great Gorey fan, so any new discovery always is a delight.

      I was a little startled by the fact that I’d nearly forgotten that poem of Milton’s. I’ve read it a time or two since Steve posted it. It certainly does read differently after my recent experiences. Of all the reasons to go back to literature we read in school, that’s probably the best: age and experience give us a new way of reading, and deeper understanding.

      I’m eager for the new year, and a little overwhelmed by the thought of all I want to do. Some prioritizing is critical, not to mention some mental decluttering. But it’s the same every year, isn’t it? On we go!

  33. Although my crimes never involved Christmas presents, I did invade the privacy of my parents closets and drawers in other ways. I am sure they knew but never said a word to me. At the time I thought I had escaped detection, but in my later years I am now sure I did not.

    I hope that you had a pleasant and festive Christmas, Linda. Ours was quiet but enjoyable. Our family is now just a few…Mary Beth, her sister and I. One other sister in law at a distance. My brother and his family are on the left coast and celebrate Hanukkah. I am the non-believer who is just along for the ride. :-)

    1. What is it that makes parents’ bedrooms and offices so appealing? We all snooped at times other than Christmas. I had a friend who once said she thought we just were trying to find out if our parents were people, too. In some ways, that makes as much sense as anything.

      Christmas here was nice and quiet, like yours. Even the drive into Houston was nice, with little traffic and relatively polite drivers. I did have the honor of sharing it with five small, yappy dogs, which wasn’t so pleasant in the beginning. But, once they figured out I wasn’t going to be driven away, they all resumed their naps, and peace reigned.

      Right now I’ve traded Christmas carols for scanner traffic. There was a terrible tornado in Rowlett a couple of hours ago, and I think another northeast of there. I’ll say this — the level of competence displayed by the emergency personnel in a situation like this says as much as anything about what holds this country together: the people.

      Speaking of — a friend introduced me to a great a capella group called Shir Soul this Hanukkah. Their music’s as enjoyable as any Christmas carol!

      1. That was pretty good, although I am pretty sure it was lip-synced for the video.
        I agree that what makes our country great is the people and will leave it at that as I am not feeling too good about many if any of our elected folks.

          1. All of the tornados and snow are well north and east of me. It looks like we’ll get the tail end of the system in the next couple of hours, but some straight-line winds, and maybe a thunderstorm, should be the worst of it.

            1. It’s not hard to play “find the front” right now. It’s still 77 at my place, but 53 in north Houston. I do love a good front — there are going to be blue skies tomorrow!

  34. My experience was lot more positive – I found my Barbie Dream Camper & my mom let me play with it before Christmas – as long as my dad wasn’t around. It was the year I found out that my MOTHER was Santa Clause & that did not displease me in the least :)

    Since then, however, I’ve learned the value of waiting – of anticipating & preparing my heart for the surprise. It makes a big difference in how lasting & meaningful the gift is!

    1. What a good Mom you had. That “don’t tell dad” business is funny. You must not have had brothers and sisters, either. At least, I assume not. Siblings could have presented some complications when you were playing with your Barbie.

      It’s funny how we change over time, isn’t it? There are experiences, like waiting, that a child just can’t appreciate, even if they manage to do what’s expected. Learning to be both open and eager is so important — sometimes, there are gifts waiting that we never would have expected.

  35. This comment is of course way out of season, but reading this piece reminded me of my own childhood Christmas and the excitement of going on a discovery to find out where the presents were being hidden – and then suddenly finding out you had destroy half the fun of Christmas eve itself (that’s when we had the presents). :-)

    1. Some experiences are common to us all, no matter our culture or society. Waiting is hard, and as kids, we just don’t have the wisdom — or the coping skills — to be patient. Sometimes, we don’t do so well as adults, either.

      I don’t read widely about photography, so I could have missed it. But, I don’t remember reading much about the patience required of the photographer. It’s implicit everywhere. There’s always a need to wait: for the light to change, for an animal to appear, to catch that unexpected human gesture. Childhood lessons do pay adult dividends!

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