Oh, how I love a Christmas house! I have a collection of Santas—some antique, some gifts, some deliciously tacky. I love our Christmas throw pillows—sparkly reindeer against red velvet, or a sweet snowman, or the little pine trees with pompom decorations. I have a village we put over the kitchen cabinets, and it looks like a place everyone would want to live, a tiny English town with a bakery, bookstore, chapel and firehouse. Our tree is heavily decorated with ornaments and notes from the kids. Some decorations are from McIrish’s childhood—Peter Pan fencing with Captain Hook (not sure how they became Christmas decorations, but there they are every year, going at each other with swords). I have a strange, ugly little fairy who has pipe cleaner arms and no legs. She’s my favorite.
When the January day comes to take down the tree and pack up the Santas, melancholy hangs heavy in the air. This Christmas was especially wonderful—the first Christmas Eve in our renovated house, the first Christmas as grandparents. The Peeper and his parents slept over, along with Dearest Son back from Utah, up in his old room. My nephew was there, and he looks so much like the grandpa he never met. Three of my very best friends. The food was amazing, and my cake was perfectly moist.
But this year was also very bittersweet—our first Christmas without my beloved aunt Teresa, who adored the holidays. Her husband visited his daughter this year, so he was absent, too. My mom is that bravest person who manages to laugh no matter how much her heart aches. She asked hilariously dark questions at the dinner table—“What was the present you most wanted but never got?” “What’s the worst way you could die?” So many laughs.
Christmas morning had our grandson chewing on wrapping paper and pushing the little wooden train Santa brought. Many lovely gifts were exchanged, and later, we went to the Princess’s house to see Firefighter Mike’s family. It was so good to see them.
The day after Christmas, McIrish’s father passed away. He had been in a fast decline and was 95, so we knew the day was coming, but still. All of his sons, their wives and three of the grandkids joined Polly that day, which fittingly ended in an Irish restaurant. I even ordered a Guinness in his honor. This weekend, we had my darling mother-in-law and brother-in-law visit and eked out one last Christmas dinner.
Now, though, every bit of holiday-ing has been wrung dry. As I write this, McIrish is wrapping the Christmas lights around the wooden spool he made just for that purpose. The decorations come down a lot faster than they go up.
We’re left with a house that feels bigger and sunnier, and sure, it feels a little sterile at first. The days are growing longer, and the weather here has been chilly, but not frigid. It feels like a clean start, literally and figuratively. This will be the year my grandson learns to walk and talk. This year will see the publication of my twenty-second (or twenty-third) book. This year, we’ll get to live in our sweet little house in the woods, no more saws or ladders, watching the birds, petting our dog and cat as our beautiful planet turns and spins. And every once in a while, we’ll find a pine needle the vacuum cleaner missed, and be reminded of this very special Christmas.