On Christmas day we woke early, we opened presents, there was a lot of exclaiming and there was an entire bag of trash by the time they finished. The girls are still young enough to be excited over clothes, over anything wrapped, over the mere fact of gifts.
We left the house, still in our pajamas, and drove to the donut shop. On the way, we all sang Christmas songs. We ate breakfast, and watched Beauty and The Beast in a pile on the couch, licking sugar and glaze from sticky fingers and succumbing to the stupor that invariably results from this kind of indulgence. Sorry about that sentence, it’s sort of indulgent, itself.
After playing, and naps, we packed up our few gifts for family and climbed into the car. We over’d the hills and through’d the woods to grandmothers house, where the girls opened even more presents. At one point, near the end of the pile, Abby began to demand “another present for me!” I don’t think this request is unreasonable, Kate had just opened a few in a row and, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t thinking the exact thing about myself that Abby was saying. I’m just not sure how to address that with her. In the end, we talked about it for a few minutes and agreed that she had opened a lot of presents, and she would help me open my own, and that we had almost gotten to all of them. I think it’s a little early to try to sell the lie that Christmas isn’t about gifts. Anyway, I didn’t start believing that until I was in my twenties, and my mom was always on-message about it, so I don’t think the girls will be convinced for a while.
They were adorable. They danced, they sang, they played. We left for home and I felt that strong sense of Family, of belonging and love. The feeling that wells up inside and makes the world a little brighter. Cheesy, I know, but it was a very good Christmas.
The next morning was Monday, and I had it off. After our laziness on Christmas day, the park was very much in order. We had breakfast, got dressed and headed out.
On December 26th, 2011, it was 76 degrees in Orange County. The girls were in shorts and short sleeves. I wore my new NPR shirt. The day was alive with a kind of springtime energy, the clouds were huge and white and rolling across the blue sky. After playing for several minutes, Abigail set off over the great, green soccer field. She sprinted to the outer edge, hiding behind a baseball backstop. Katie and I trundled over the grass, slow and steady, our steps in time to Katie’s refrain of “A-bby! A-bby!”
We were only halfway there when she gave up hiding and sprinted toward us. I watched her running, her long, skinny legs jutting out in front of her with every pace. She’ll be faster than me in a couple of years. She hit us like a sack full of feathers, her mass decelerated, dissolved into a hug that tangled in my legs. Katie glommed on. We collapsed in a heap.
“Daddy!” Abby said, sitting cross-legged next to me in the grass now. “Let’s play I Spy!”
I gave my ascent, we played.
“I spy something that is…Green!” she said.
I guessed a few things, she said no. I guessed the grass, finally getting it right. I spied something that was white, and she guessed the Goal Posts first thing. She was clearly playing for keeps, and I wasn’t going to get anything by going easy.
We sat there, under those mountainous clouds, the grass tickling our legs. We sat as the minutes ticked by, playing a silly game, enjoying each others company. Content to do nothing more exciting than this. The universe was created for this moment. Kate mostly watched. Abby surprised me with her talented observation. The sun warmed us, the breeze brought the freshness of the day to us, in scent and in its cool kiss on our warm skin.
We walked back to the car, and kept playing. We went to the library, or we went to lunch, or perhaps we went home. I don’t remember. But I remember this moment, and I wanted to write it down before I forgot it.
This memory is not colored by positive historical revision, or idealistic interpretation. It is a pure retelling. It was a beautiful moment, more beautiful than all the magic of Christmas, for its simplicity and intimacy. If I had a pensieve, I would store this memory there, locked away in the depths of some vault, guarded day and night. These are the moments of my life that I cherish. Success and failure are both impostors, but moments like this, moments of genuine, simple, happiness are the real deal.
This blog post wasn’t really for you. I hope that’s okay. If it’s not okay…Well, that’s okay, too. Sometimes we’re all allowed to be self serving. Sometimes, being self serving is what’s appropriate.