I hear kids playing outside. It's 8:55 pm on the shortest day of the year. It's really cold out. I've stolen away early from our neighbor's winter solstice party where there was fondue and sausages and hershey kisses dipped in peanut sauce and apple cider and wine and spiced cranberry juice that made our son burp and burp and burp in between bouts of play in the upstairs bedroom of the 10-year-old girl who lives there.
I spent ten minutes putting the Guess Who? game back together while a mother sat near me and breastfed her baby.
Our holiday cards arrived in the mail. I hand delivered them to neighbors to save on postage before we went to the party. The wind was howling. It still is. It gets to do that on the longest night of the year. The wind is living it up tonight.
I bring out the latest photo of little Miss Sassafrass Bee to take some photos of more neighbors holding her photo. I'm putting together a photo book of people she will see once she gets home. I take a few. The kids want to see her, Abe's sister. I scroll back through the photos I've taken and am verklempt. I love our neighbors. Seeing photos of them holding her sassafrass photo made me all kinds of weepy.
One of our neighbors at the party arrives late. She tells me about her difficult day. She had to put together a flower arrangement for a 12-year-old girl whose "make-a-wish" before dying was to visit the pope. She was sent to Hawaii instead. Her funeral is tomorrow, three days before Christmas. Watching my neighbor describe what it was like to put together an arrangement like this made me cry just as she was crying as she told me about it. She poured her wine. We said, "to life" and toasted, through tears. Then we tearfully smiled at each other and hugged again, for the third time.
The bowl of tiny dill pickles was my undoing at the fondue winter solstice party.
Abe played all day with friends. With neighbors down the street while Ted and I worked. At work, I printed a news article about the earthquake in Ethiopia yesterday. Everyone wanted a copy. Everyone was concerned.
Our dining room is now full of cards taped up on the dining room built-ins, from perfectly staged families in matching sweater photos to one from some friends whose greeting declares that this year they "defeat the Krampus: The Krampus is a creature who works alongside Saint Nicholas. While Santa Claus brings toys and candy to good boys and girls, the Krampus warns and punishes naughty children, often putting them in chains and taking them away to his fiery abode." This card has a photo of our friends slaying the Krampus. This is maybe my favorite holiday card, especially because I know its special meaning.
I woke up this morning from a dream I'd been having about hearing the news about a close relative of mine dying. In my dream, a friend I've made in the adoption community was the one who broke the news to me and who put an arm around me as I sobbed. We were on a tour of my elementary school when I heard the news. Of course we were. This is how dreams work, right? A photo of the consoling family is hanging in our dining room right next to the defeaters of the Krampus.
This makes sense to me. The longest night of the year. From here on out, it just gets lighter.