Archive for December 2009
I let a whole year slip through my fingers.
Like the sand I scooped up at the beach on my vacation, months, days, weeks and hours trickled away until they were all gone and I was left with empty hands…
I don’t have a lot to show for last year. I didn’t lose a pound or gain an hour. I didn’t save nearly enough time or money. I didn’t turn over any new leaves or completely shed any bad habits. I’m basically the same person I was this time last year.
I was hoping for a little more than that.
The first Christmas I was truly on my own, I left a party and drove back to my apartment late on Christmas Eve. There wasn’t any snow, but the air was sharp and cold. My breath fogged the windshield in my little car and my fingers – I hadn’t remembered my gloves – were stiff. I hunched over the icy steering wheel as I made my way to my empty apartment.
I was 20 years old and I felt as alone as anyone could be. I was, as Charles Dickens wrote of Ebenezer Scrooge, as solitary as an oyster.
Moving slowly through shadowy neighborhood streets lined with pretty houses – upright two-story houses and tiny cottages sitting side by side – I passed quiet homes that just hours before had been full of noise and excitement.
The streets were dark and empty, but I began to notice that many of the houses were not. It was almost midnight but lights were still shining, and through the wide front windows I could see men and women moving about.
Finally, passing one house after another, in neighborhoods with swing sets and bicycles in the back yards, I realized what was happening. And I stopped…
Standing just beside the front door of the busy store, bundled up to stay warm in weather that has turned brutal over night, she sees all kinds of people in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
She sees the ones who are determined, who get there early, walking up to the door with a purposeful stride. They’ve got a list. A timeline. A budget. They’re in charge.
She can tell who is just out for the fun of it, happy to listen to canned carols playing over the sound system. Feeding off the energy of the crowd and the season. Bargain hunting as a sport.
She watches the children in hats and mittens, along for the ride, holding onto a parent’s hand, being pulled along as they dawdle, stopping to stare at the Christmas displays, or to peer into the shiny red kettle in front of her as they drop in a coin.
She sees the others; the ones who are tightlipped with worry. Who carry purses and wallets that don’t hold near enough to buy what they’d hoped to get. Those who don’t have enough for what they need; forget about the extras. They walk into the store like tired soldiers heading into a battle. Already outgunned and out of ammunition.
She stands there, ringing the bell, shifting her weight from foot to foot trying to stay warm, watching us all come and go…