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New Year's Wishes

January 4, 2005

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Listened to it on Christmas Day, too, and that one wasn't bad, either. The New Year's Eve show was a kind of "best of" show, pretty much about cold and the flu and winter and what it brings and of course it all wrapped up in a Butch Thompson and Rich Dworsky version of "Auld Lang Syne" which got the tears rolling. The Christmas show was a slew of interviews with members of the show's cast. I just loved it. Especially Sue Scott and all her lit candles. What a sight that must have been with Mr. Keillor and Ms. Scott sitting there talking in all that glow. That's what he did. He walked on into these people's houses and had lovely conversations with them about Christmas and about their lives and I couldn't help but think about what I'd say about Christmas if he wandered on into my living room.

I spent the week between baking loaves of stollen for the neighbors, out on the side porch for a breath of air and a moment of sane thought, or falling asleep in the middle of a movie. You know, every darn time I watch It's A Wonderful Life, I get this ache and I can't say why for sure. What I do know is that you spend all those weeks preparing for the holidays, right up to whipping up some chipped beef dip on New Year's Eve, and all the while there's a sort of hollow in your chest. You want desperately to gather up all the people you've ever loved and love and light some candles and just sit there together and feel it. And you just can't. Because life is all about meetings and partings and it's the partings that really burn and for some reason at the turn of the year you find yourself remembering what you miss. So you love the people you have and give gifts and eat that beef dip and sip some wine and go to church after New Year's Day and reflect on what just happened and are relieved that the routine will be back soon.

You know, I got some fine gifts for Christmas this year. The kids gave me some flour sack towels and a Whitman's sampler and a refrigerator magnet that says "Life is Good." Mr. Sundberg gave me a lovely brown velvety wrap for when I'm up late at night reading, and a crème brûlée torch and a set of guaranteed-for-life baking pans. I gave him a chainsaw mainly because he wanted one and it'll get him out into the woods. I also gave him a Latin root word dictionary for when he does crossword puzzles, and one of those strap-on headlamps which he can use either out in the woods or while working on the puzzles.

I think my favorite gift, though, is from my mother. It's a porcelain angel about a foot tall with a bird resting in her hands. It's perfect until you get up close and see it's all cracked which is really quite beautiful. They call it "crazed porcelain." I find that appropriate. We look fine until you get up real close and then you see all the cracks. Though I'll admit I don't often notice. I think only the poets really see. Same with Christmas. It's everything that isn't perfect that makes it Christmas. Like how Mr. Sundberg poured the mixed nuts in the crystal vase his boss gave him and then couldn't get his hand out without letting go of the nuts. Or how the kids gave me three more rubber spatulas, which makes a grand total of 13. Or how Mr. Sundberg thought the frosting on the 12-layer Black Forest Cherry Christmas Cake tasted like feet. And how I dried my black skirt in the dryer and it came out with red stripes and I ended up wearing jeans on Christmas Eve. How we ended up eating a frozen pizza because I forgot to thaw the turkey. All of that.

So no resolutions for me this year. For me, making a resolution is like throwing a boomerang. You launch the thing and boy does it fly and just when you turn to wave to someone — SMACK — you get clocked in the head and it's downhill from there. Nope. I want an ordinary year filled with long days and plain things. A year of baking and black coffee and the turning of the seasons and the smell of freshly-washed clothes. I don't want to win the lottery and I don't have to win at Bingo if I can just play now and then. I'd love one or two of Mr. Sundberg's letters and to continue with the discussion group at church and make a fancy meal now and then for friends. Some good vanilla-scented hand lotion by the sink and the kids' artwork on the fridge. All the kind of things I'll think about and miss some Christmas years from now. That's pretty much it for a happy year, and I wish all the same for you, too.

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