The house is quiet now. Opened gift boxes and shreds of wrapping paper are stacked in the corner. Coffee cups, champagne glasses and candy wrappers lie around the room, remnants of our Christmas morning celebration.

Three gourmet cooks prepared the food. A French breakfast casserole, lovely biscuits and scrumptious muffins. It silenced the big talkers at the table, each more focused on the food than of the topics of the day. Small talk. Big bites. Love all around.
My grandson’s charm warmed the house and stole the show. This Christmas was mostly about him, a cherub of a child with sparkling eyes, a sweet smile and a very active mind. The world is Archer’s oyster.

“Why then the world’s mine oyster, Which I with sword will open.”-Shakespeare

Gus, our loving pit bull mix, sits by the door hoping for a handout. Sensing his growing anxiety, I cut a generous piece of last night’s grilled prime tenderloin and quickly toss it toward his powerful jaws, being careful to snap my fingers back quickly lest they become part of the treat. Satisfied, he retreats to his house to savor his good fortune and proudly show his obedience. He knows the game.

It’s my nature to grow despondent when I should be happy. This is certainly one of the reasons why I was drawn to poetry, especially tragic poets like Sylvia Plath and the English Romantics. Then came Nick Drake, Townes Van Zandt and Radiohead. My personally selected smorgasbord of misery. Combine that with the fiery Scottish temperament I got from my mother’s side, and well, it’s a bloody mess.

Instead of basking in the glow of all the goodness and joy, I’m consumed by the fact that it’s over. In the blink of an eye, another Christmas has come and gone. Outside, it’s gloomy and raining. Looking out the window, the naked oak limbs look like spider webs against the grey sky, and my thoughts begin to reflect the landscape. I dwell on lost loved ones and of Christmases past. I drift back to when the children were little and see them opening their gifts. The tender moments Allison and I shared together over the years. Then I shift to the future and worry. I realize that one day I may not be able to host big holiday parties, and that the last Christmas is getting nearer. I wonder if my own children will one day reflect the same way I do, and if they’ll miss their parents. Will others cherish the moments they spent with me the way I cherish moments with them?

Hey, at least we threw good parties.

God, why do I do this to myself? Snap out of it. Go for a run. Read a good book. Go to church. I opt for alcohol and Netflix. Vikings should do it. Nothing like blood and mayhem to make your spirit cheery and bright. I’ll drink from my favorite Christmas gift, a Viking drinking horn.

Mr. Kittles makes his way over. Sitting at my feet, he’s also pondering. “Should I get in his lap or scream my head off until he lets me out?” Kittles is a flame point Siamese cat and is quite full of himself. It’s never occurred to him that he’s not the most important living thing on earth. He’s loud, loves to vomit and destroys things when his separation anxiety reaches its zenith. But I love him, and I’m pretty sure he loves me. Climbing up to my lap, his affection comes at just the right moment.

Surveying the room and all the Christmas decorations, I suddenly have a moment of stark clarity. There’s a lot of stuff to box up. The tree is huge and as it’s being removed, it will shed enough pine needles to make a soft bed for a grizzly bear. As usual, I’ve over spent, but so what. Money is a renewable resource. The chance to make someone happy with a nice gift may never come again.

The season will officially end when I take the tree to the back yard, chop it up and store it for the spring equinox. When spring comes, I’ll burn the tree and give thanks for another cycle completed. Birth, fire, rebirth. I’ll welcome more laughs, stories, joys and tears and hope for another joyous Yuletide season.

Shine on.

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