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Archive for December, 2013

Christmas at Rockland

I must have looked down the road at the old house for a long, long time. I remember how the air felt on my face; how the cold felt on my cheeks and hands. I remember Mama’s beige car coat with the hood turned up. I remember the color of the sky and the full feeling of Christmas dinner still in my belly. I remember knowing that it would never be this good again and if I paid attention with all my being I could carry it with me forever.
I honed my senses and sharpened them: I tasted the sky. I smelled the conversation. I felt the poignant emotions and wistfulness of a family so filled with love they could burst on my skin – the absolute love and kindness in a family close and without conflict on Christmas day. It was a sacred day. No spoken contract was made. But we all knew that this day was a day of love, joy, giddiness and overabundance so divine it could not be spoken – only felt, touched, tasted and smelled.
The sky turned molten rust as we turned back toward the lumbering house again. Leaves blew around our feet as we walked through the dry field by the stable. The horses looked up and whinnied, then looked away shyly when they realized they might have disturbed our sacred time. They somehow knew that this day was for us and that tomorrow would bring a ‘regular’ day of riding and feeding and mucking stalls and horseshoes.
I studied Daddy’s face, memorizing it. I saw the pores in his skin, the hairs in his nostrils, the beautiful gracefulness of his long fingers as he put them in his pockets, then withdrew them, then put them back again. I studied each hair on my sister’s head, memorizing them. I studied my brother’s walk, his particular gait, his funny, lopsided grin. I studied Mama’s beautiful profile, already etched forever in my memory. I memorized the earth, the smell of the marsh, still redolent somehow in cold weather. I knew that the plough mud held treasures, buried down deep in the cold weather, ready to share themselves with us when the warmer weather returned.
As if a silent communication had occurred, we all began to walk more slowly as we approached the back stairs of the old house. Daddy would start a fire, and Mama would make her famous turkey sandwiches with paper thin slices of turkey, cranberry and mayonnaise on white bread. We would eat them no matter how full we remained from Christmas dinner.
My Lanz nightgown smelled like bayberry soap when I put it on that evening and returned downstairs for a goodnight kiss. No matter what happened in the world, no matter how many trials or tribulations or difficulties or stories or personal problems may have arisen in the fifty years since this Christmas, Christmas at Rockland is right here with me now, filling me with joy beyond measure. I taste it. I smell it. I feel it. It is right here.

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