Car wheels stop rolling and we’re home. The house is like we left it – suitcases and empty record boxes, laundry and guitar cases but cleaner than I remembered. Out the back window I see a lone glowing Santa – it’s almost Christmas.
I’m fighting off a cold and Eric is limping. My hair’s gone white in one spot, lines under my eyes. The bathroom mirror doesn’t lie – I saw myself in here two months ago and thought I looked pretty good. Now I think I need to sleep, drink more water. Wonder when that Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Oil will arrive by mail?
I go back to work. The bookstore is all changed around, but I don’t have time to think about it, there’s a line of customers doing Christmas shopping. At the bar the regulars call out my name and I feel happy to be back.
Yoga. I lie on the floor looking up at the tall tall windows with red curtains, and the medallion in the ceiling of this beautiful old building, listening to Sasha the instructor talk in a low familiar voice. This is easy yoga, Monday morning basics. After, I go to Swallow for a coffee. I pick up my phone to call Eric to see if he wants to meet me there but he’s already texted asking if I want to have coffee in Swallow.
The farm store. There are a few Christmas trees leaning around, starting to yellow – it’s two days before Christmas. “Are these on sale?” I ask the tree guy. “Nope.” We buy one anyway.
Back at work the customers are lined up to the back of the store. I’m a swiping, smiling, wrapping machine. I pour a beer for a regular and before I can set it down in front of him, he says “I’d like that wrapped please.” I reach for the wrapping paper without thinking. We laugh.
Christmas morning I get up early and decorate the tree. It felt indulgent spending money on something we’re just going to throw away in a few days, but hanging up the box of old ornaments, I think of my mother and how she loved decorating for the holidays. She’s been gone so long I don’t feel close to her very often anymore but for a few minutes with little glass ornaments and bits of ribbon and straw in my hands, I do.
Eric and I take a walk in nearby Athens. Twenty-six years ago when Hazel was a baby my group the Shams played a Christmas party at Stewart House, an old hotel on the Hudson River. From New York City it felt like traveling to outer space – do people actually live all the way up here? For a while now Christmas has meant a visit to NYC but this year it doesn’t occur to me to go, I’m too happy to be home, all the way up here.
“Wish we could look in one of these old houses.” Athens is full of historic buildings. “Hey, isn’t that Frank?” Our friend Frank is loading some tools out of his truck and into an old house that he’s bought and is renovating. He takes us in and shows us around.
Hazel and Ben her boyfriend arrive from the city by Zipcar. We tromp through the bird sanctuary at sunset, laughing about stuff. Hazel helps me roast a duck (non-sanctuaried…bought at the farm store). The recipe says “Easy” but eight dirty pans and a slightly desiccated crispy duck later we’re not so sure. Everybody tears at the bird with bare hands to get a little meat. We open presents and laugh some more.
Christmas is over and it’s back to work. Eric tidies up the studio and we sing together on the microphone, feeling like the Archies for a minute.
Next morning the sun comes through the window next to the tree, I see the past year start to recede and wonder what’s up ahead?