December heralds a season of preparations and celebrations, bursting with family and friends and fun. For some. For me, it is a harbinger of doom, an implosion of dread. My husband works for a shipping company.
We are thankful for my husband’s job, but our gratitude does not change the fact that it is tough work in December. The weather, the volume, the long hours, all this devours our Christmas. For him, the music comes too early; the decorations come too soon; instead of smelling cinnamon and vanilla, he breathes fumes of diesel and cardboard. People complain of late night soirées and near-gluttony, he’s getting home as the kids are going to bed and eating whatever can be rewarmed. His fingers crack and split. His body is still cold after a hot shower. He dreams of boxes and wakes exhausted. His sense of humor shrinks. He is infected by a holiday-induced Scrooginess.
Revival comes from unexpected places. Over the weekend, he attacked the house: scrubbing, cleaning, tearing through backpacks. Among the dirty clothes, uneaten snacks, and balls of paper, he unearthed a homework assignment for our kindergartener, requiring the attention of the whole family.
We were to decorate a large construction-paper Christmas tree, keeping in mind the current “Five Senses” unit at school. The kindergartener wandered as the rest of us tried to think.
“What does that mean?” I said. “We need to decorate it with noses?”
“Or fingers?” said our oldest.
“Toes!” said my husband. “Big toes.”
The kindergartner returned and my husband asked her, “Which sense do you want to use?”
“Pennies,” she said. She held out her hand, and showed them to us. She had found exactly five.