I don't have a Christmas decorating plan but it invariably ends up happening the weekend after Thanksgiving since I've had a few days off and the usual laundry, vacuum, clean the toilets, that occurs every Saturday was already done on Wednesday. So, the boxes come up from the basement, their peculiar but familiar scent heralding the season as effectively as the angel Gabriel. There are delicate angels and vintage snowmen and garland and mistletoe and odd pieces of things that need to be glued or discarded but end up back in the box unused and unrepaired. There is a box of Christmas books from when the kids were little, our bedtime reading for many years of Decembers. I know it is time for them to go but the feelings they evoke are stronger even than the ones I feel when unwrapping the old tin cans that my grandmother used to store her pizzelles. I am not sure what to do with the books since I don't intend to give them away and it seems silly to leave them out. We are a family with grown children but not so grown to have babies of their own. There is no one excited to read Santa's Workshop in our home.
I rummage through the pile and find Ali's favorite, The Christmas Kitten and remember the first Christmas after my parents came to live with us. Mom helped us to decorate but midway through she forgot what we were doing and nervously asked to go home. When she asked for her mother, who had been dead for more than ten years, I wasn't sure what to say. She cried. I coaxed her into sitting down on the couch and sat real close next to her so she wouldn't be so scared. Ali was just 14 then but she read the situation and joined me on the other side of Mom. We held her hand, tried to comfort her. Just like today, I had discarded the pile of children's books while decorating and was half sitting on them. I picked up The Christmas Kitten and started reading.
On the night of the first big snow, in an old plaid shirt, in the corncrib of the big red barn, old Ginger gave birth to a small litterMom stops crying and points to the illustration of the kittens nursing and smiles at Ali. I keep reading. I read slowly and make a point to show Mom the pictures. She holds Ali's hand tightly. We finish reading just as the last light of the short day leaves the room.
There are decorations with more glitter and ones with more value but there are none so meaningful as this tattered, old book. I sit it on the piano and greet another season of wonder.