I wasn’t sure we would make it out of Chicago but that’s the way it is when you travel at Christmas, isn’t it? The last hour of rushing around maniacally slapping ribbons and name tags on gifts is nerve racking. I always have to re-open several to remember what they are and who they are for. I am making sure the kitties leave their cookies for Santa and the neighbor, as his representative, has their gift-which Sophie will be revisiting, already soggy with tooth marks, since she discovered and enjoyed it twice, in the three days before we left- and screaming at each other: Did you turn the heat down? Did you give McCloud his poop medicine? Do you have those thumb drives off my desk? and so forth and so on.
But here we are in Kalamazoo-zoo-zoo, tucked in cozily between my sister’s beautiful Victorian and the B and B five doors down. This year, there are the three sisters plus spouses plus children (my two, Laurel’s one), Bud safe and sound from the U.P. and Betsy’s two cats. One of the cats has set the world’s record for longest active case of rabies and never has there been a more fearsome and crazy cat. He guards the stairs and if anyone needs to go up we have to yell, “Betsy! Come get
Cujo Claus so I can go to the bathroom!” Yes, he is indeed named after Santa. Go figure. Bruce and Alison remain in Massachusetts this year, with plans to come to St. Petersburg for Bud’s 80th birthday in February. (We might go to Disney World, dammit.)
Bud made it down by the whiskers of his chin. Hospitalized for kidney problems, electrolyte imbalance and atrial fibrillation, he was released and packed on the small SAAB prop plane by the visiting nurse with the notion that he was better off under the watchful eyes of his family for a week than alone in the North Woods. Laurel had been with him for a few days at the hospital in Marquette, 150 miles from Lost Loon Lodge, but she needed to make a stop back in Wisconsin to tie up loose ends before coming down here, so he had 48 hours to get his own self organized for Christmas. We all accept, with some anxiety, that Bud has made his choice to stay at his small cluttered, beautiful cottage in the tip of the Keweenaw and we will all, Bud included, live and die with the consequences. And so it goes. I understand his wishes: there is no place else I know of where a person could get such a stunning picture of the night sky behind tall jack pines, all those stars brightly shining. I even know the precise latitude and longitude, for it’s right near the place we scattered my mother. And it was late summer, not winter- but then we don’t know for sure where and when that star was shining in the East, do we? One more thing we take on faith.
Betsy and her husband teach at Western Michigan University and last year we did Christmas in Chicago so it’s a relief to be here. It’s warm and cozy with a fragrant and fat Christmas tree, a warm fireplace, lovely stained glass windows, a brand new gorgeous kitchen with a butler’s pantry bigger than either of my kitchens (not that I’m going on and on with envy in bed last night, explaining to Rich why I deserve, in this life time, a kitchen worthy of me.). Betsy’s house feels very much like a family home.
So, this is Christmas. With five inches of beautiful new snow last night and my family and children at hand, I am happy. In lots of ways, it was a tough year with annoying concerns about health issues, worries about the state of the economy and more, the state of the world and all the usual fussing about the children. There’s never a way to protect them enough (meaning as much as I want, which is 100 percent) from the challenges and pains of life and on the other end, aging parents lead to an even greater sense of helplessness when it comes to fixing life. I guess the lesson is we don’t fix life. We live it, try to help where we can and feel blessed with what we have. And how blessed we are. Merry Christmas to all of my friends who celebrate, and to those of you who don’t- even as you enjoy Chinese food and go to see I Am Legend at the theater- remember, you’re blessed too!