Christmas 2020: Tiles, Toilet & Turkey

A Saturday Caesura, Christmas Edition

Christmas morning begins in the semi-dark living room, the glow of coloured Christmas lights and candles accompanied by hot coffee (him) and tea (me) with a chaser-splurge of hot chocolate (also me) and a deep dive into words of Christ found in Matthew that speak truths both knowable and beyond understanding. No exchange or opening of presents, just this gift of God’s presence.

I listen to “Bethlehem, Year Zero,” a poem penned and read by Irish poet, Andrew Roycroft, the lilt of his brogue adding to the resonance of his words for this day, this year. It nourishes my spirit like the breakfast bowl of warmed-over Irish oats nourishes my body.

The dark sky gives way to ordinary grey. It starts snowing, lightly.

I fill the bird feeder and the wood box, stoke the fire, don my painting clothes and put a final coat on the window trim in the bathroom we’ve been renovating. We work together to adjust the new shower drain, brainstorm solutions for tiling uneven, unsquare walls (old farmhouse syndrome), abandon the tile idea, reinstall the vanity, re-plumb the sink, reinstall & re-plumb the toilet. It needs a new seat, we agree.

I change clothes, wash renovation residue off my hands and prep the turkey, saute onions and celery and garlic for the stuffing, peel and chop two small turnips, put them on the wood stove to cook. While the turkey roasts, I lend a hand here and there to ongoing endeavours in the bathroom, tidy up tools and rags, vacuum dust ‘n bits.

We are only two here, but texts, emails, phone calls connect us to family and friends throughout the day – a glittering of grace and joy and love that sparkles like hoar frost in the sun of a winter day, like tinsel in the lights of a Christmas tree.

I exchange the everyday ivory tablecloth for something festive red and green, set out stemware, silverware, white cloth napkins. He exchanges overalls for an apron and carves the turkey while I make gravy, dress the roasted carrots and brussel sprouts with balsamic glaze, whip the turnips with a touch of cream and dollop of butter. We keep the food hot on the wood stove, serve ourselves there on pre-warmed china plates. We light candles, (an everyday supper routine), hit play on Kenny G’s Christmas album (still in the CD player from last year), give thanks to God for the gifts of this day, this year, and savour the meal, the work of our hands, the blessings of life and marriage and home.

It is not a “magical” Christmas Day, but it is one rich in meaning that extends beyond the hours that define it as a day, just as the birth of the God-Man, the Servant-King, carries its deepest meaning far beyond the hours that defined that night in a stable in Bethlehem, year zero.

☕️ Home Invasion

A Saturday Caesura

Our house was invaded last week. Strangers arrived and made themselves at home, and while I was (am) happy to have them, their presence left me feeling not at home in my home. It’s interesting how our lived-in spaces become such an extension of ourselves that changes niggle and unsettle us.

When I say that the ‘invaders’ are an antique dining room set, a multi-place setting of Royal Albert china (Old Country Roses, complete with all the accessory serving dishes, a bell, and shoe-shaped toothpick holder), crystal, stemware, silver, and table linens (actual linen linens), I know that eyes will roll — first world problems, get a life already and all that.

And I understand; this dis-ease in my own home, a home that is generous, warm, secure, and not lacking in any device designed for comfort and ease (except a dishwasher), is not even close to real discomfort. I know this.

The issue is that I am not a china-crystal-silver kind of person. I never have been. My mother-in-law is, and these new arrivals are hers. They felt right and proper in her home, but here, among my basic white Corelle, Pyrex, and mismatched accessories (not to mention my feathers, pebbles, bird nests and dragonfly wings), they feel ostentatious and decidedly not me.

So I’ve been compelled to adjust to a new home-persona (for lack of a better way to describe it), and in the process I’ve pondered a couple of things.

One of them is how the juxtaposition of china tea sets and old milk cans and bird nests and glass covered-cake-stands is not unlike a family with its eclectic mix of personalities, preferences, and perspectives. Families may share homes for a time, but individuals don’t necessarily experience life the same way. And then we add new members and become members of other families, each person bringing a whole self to sit alongside other whole selves just as flawed, quirky and unique. Feathers and crystal. Pebbles and silver. Sometimes we don’t seem to fit together at all…and yet, we do.

And that leads to the other thing. My mother-in-law loved to create meal experiences for her family. At 92-years old, her kitchen glory days are over, but her presence and legacy lingers in these ‘invaders’ of my home. Just as she preferred the baking pans used by her mother, treasured the porcelain tea cup hand-painted by her Aunt Charlotte, and served meals on this same dining room furniture inherited from her mother-in-law, I can eat a bowl of soup from her-now-our-china knowing that the only real value in all of these objects is the memories and the people they represent.

So while interior designers would have a hard time defining my home decor because it doesn’t fit any recognizable (or popular) category and they would be mortified to see bird nests displayed in crystal fruit nappies, I’ve come to embrace the revised feel of our home because it even more fully represents two things I love: God’s created world in all its intricate beauty and the indescribable gift and legacy of family.

PS If you ever come to visit, I promise to thoroughly wash the fruit nappies before I serve dessert.

☕️ Friday Night

A Saturday Caesura

It is Saturday and it is a blue-gold one, one that holds all the mercies of a new day. Last night, in the fog of Friday Fatigue I struggled to find anything to write. So I focused on my surroundings, my place at that moment, and discovered much to be grateful for…

I am sitting lengthwise on the couch that keeps its back to the wood stove so that I have full view out the front window as well as the window to my right, the one that faces the sunrise each morning, the one where perennial sweet peas crowd round to peer in like pink-cheeked nosy neighbours. Tonight I am mostly peering out the front window, watching the chimney smoke fall in gentle breaths on the mottled yellow-green leaves still clinging to the trees hovering over the now-empty garden boxes. My Mother’s Day fuchsia sits atop the wood pile on the deck, its fairy-dancer blossoms pirouetting amidst graceful leafy cascades. The sun has set. Dusk unfurls a soft grey hush. The wind grows sleepy.

Inside, a floor lamp spreads its light across my page, burnishes warm hues in the bamboo flooring. I am warm, perhaps a bit too warm now that the fire is fully engaged. I could cast off the worn afghan and fleece sweater that cocoon me, but I don’t. I like the weight of the afghan — it anchors me to the couch, calms me. A pot of water on the stove sizzles a merry melody; an off-beat percussive crackle or pop from the fire accompanies the rhythmic whir of the fan. It is good to be home. It is good to bring another work week to a close. It is good to just rest.

And there was evening, and there was morning. And there was goodness in between.

14. The Mundane

Laundry sorted, swished, swirled, spun,
Hung, tumbled, folded

Wheat ground, flour measured
Bread mixed, kneaded, proofed, baked

Beds made, rugs straightened
Dishes washed, dried, re-shelved

Floors swept, mopped
This tidied, that dusted, those scrubbed

There is a profound beauty in these routines
A sacredness to this ministry of home.