When bad things happen at the holidays

I planned it all week. First I got my work done, in my favorite coffee shop, a cheery place of brick and overstuffed couches, close enough to the art college to earn street cred even if the street it sits on is a meticulously groomed cobblestone roundabout. Then I was free to wander those historic streets, to drift in and out of shops dressed for the season. I saved my favorite for last. The Christmas Shop seems created just for me: nativity scenes by Wendt & Kohn, Mark Roberts’ wizened old fairies, puffy blown-glass Christopher Radko ornaments that I love to inspect if only for their outrageousness. 

And best of all: an entire tree dedicated to the Nutcracker, dozens of Sugar Plum Fairies and Marzipans and Cavaliers and Claras. Gorgeous. One, in particular, caught my eye: a tiny pink blown-glass Clara, delicately poised on her toe, cradling her beloved Nutcracker. I wanted it. Oh, I wanted it. I had the cash in my pocket, and it was on sale … 

But I didn’t. I couldn’t.

My husband was laid off, just last week. It wasn’t supposed to happen; how could such a thing happen? Quickly, apparently: the company cancelled an entire contract, so he went to work, as usual, on Thursday, but not, as usual, not on Friday. 

“Today didn’t go well,” he began as he walked in the door, hours earlier than expected.

I fear that forever, now, I will look up in dread any time he comes home a few hours early. It’s just never good news. 

Happy Holidays to us.

It’s a lot to take in. The best case scenario? The company is experiencing a momentary panic and will re-hire early in January. Painful but survivable. We’ll always tell stories about that “first tough Christmas in Savannah.” We’ll plan better, then laugh ruefully, remembering the year Christmas stopped in its tracks.

It’s too unlikely. The worst? 

Please don’t ask. 

So much is threatened. So much stands to change: where we live, where she goes to school, our economics. Our end-of-the-year financial review has churned into crisis management, shuffling, re-distributing, eyeing the short-term instead of the long, speculating instead of planning. Christmas has palled.

I know three states of being, these days.

In the best of times, I am oblivious to our situation. This most often happens with the little one, skipping and singing and enjoying. We so looked forward to this season: she is five, a magical time of cookie-decorating parties and letters to Santa and searching the skies for flying reindeer. When I am under the spell of the holidays, then all is calm, all is bright.

Too often, though, awareness comes in on little cat feet. I watch her twirl and dance and I am of two hearts: one full of holiday joy, the other buckling with the effort: Don’t let her see. Don’t let her hear. Don’t let her suspect. 

And finally, occasionally, I turn and face it. I crawl into my closet, three shut doors and a hallway protect her from my sounds I make. I snapped at Allan the other day and he shot back, That’s just anger talking, and I knew: no. It’s fear. I have nothing to be angry at or about except the vagaries of corporate decisions, which feels like raging against the rain. 

But fear? That’s real. It has dimensions and depth and edges. It’s tangible, visible in the curtainless windows, the empty space waiting for the dinette set we were going to gift ourselves for Christmas. 

It’s palpable in the pulsebeat before the bank balance floats onto the webpage. 

It lives in the space between my fingertips and the ornament, Clara dancing with her Nutcracker, a $20 bauble I would have easily purchased just a few short days ago but which, now, and for who knows how long, is just out of my reach.

 

 

 

 

 

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Published in: on December 21, 2011 at 5:47 PM  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Oh crap, I am so sorry. I don’t even know what to say, you just got there! Please let me know if there’s anything we can do to help. Sending all our love and good thoughts your way. Hugs.


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