West Tisbury

Last night I sang Christmas carols with a friend in her prettily decorated room. Fresh branches of holly and white pine were tucked into the curtain rods and behind her paintings. Tiny white lights festooned the windows. A pot of paperwhites sat on a table. It was all so pretty and peaceful, simply and beautifully arranged.

When I came home later, Mike was going through piles and boxes, trying to make order out of chaos. The box of cookie cutters had been brought up from the cellar and sat on the kitchen counter atop another box full of wreath-making supplies and decorations. My treasured feather tree is on top of the refrigerator, the third place it’s been moved, a temporary respite before the kitten discovers it there. Hanukkah cards and Christmas cards are still on my desk, unwritten and unsent, despite my best intentions to get them out right after Thanksgiving. I don’t know where the days disappear. Everywhere around me are projects undone.

Christmas is supposed to be a magic time. It is, in many ways, my favorite time of year. It is always a fantasy in my mind of what I want to do, what I plan to do. We still haven’t decided about a tree yet, so at least all the boxes of lights and ornaments for that project haven’t found their way upstairs into the general disorder. As in other years, I know by Christmas Eve the boxes will be cleared away, the presents wrapped, the cookies baked, the house festive and reasonably tidy. Or not. A secret — once things are put away they no longer look undone to anyone but you.

I plan to walk up to Church for the candlelight service on Christmas Eve, then to walk home again in the cold, quiet night. When I come down the driveway, white lights outside and candlelights in the windows will greet me. There will be greens and holly and winterberry arrangements by the doors. I hope a tree will be lit and decorated inside. But maybe not. Maybe there will be just a pot of paperwhites on a polished table.

Talley and Nanuk will be waiting for me. Nelson will be waiting, too. Edgardo will be swimming in his tank. Best of all, Mike will be waiting for me, arms open, stalwart and solid, the promise of Christmas and another year together ahead. Magic enough, and the only present I want or need.