We live in the kind of neighborhood where people come by and bring treats, little plates of homemade candies and loaves of banana bread and poinsettia plants and sweet smiles. I smile back and nod my head because I am uncomfortable with such friendliness but it is nice all the same, I just don’t know what to do with all of it. In our old neighborhood we would fight over who had to answer the door because it would inevitably be Crazy Crackhead needing coffee/sugar/eggs/milk/something or the people on the other side wanting the Wi-Fi password or one of any number of nefarious folk, sometimes college students selling magazines with the smell of pot following them like fog or young women with gold teeth selling vacuum cleaners. I never let them in our house, always opening it with one foot in front of it so they could not push their way in, and it feels strange to open my door wide and know all is well. We eat the treats and I feel guilty because I know I won’t be making our own little trek across the ‘hood with our plates of goodies. Maybe next year, I think, when I am more used to the small kindnesses and simple smiles of people who are glad to have another family with young children in the neighborhood. Maybe next year I will say Merry Christmas, we made this for you and my smiles will be genuine, not forced because I am embarrassed and unused to such kindnesses.
This year, though, it seems like everything is finally settling down, and things have worked out beautifully just like they always do if I let them. We finished up the last-minute shopping today, my 20-year-old daughter and my 1-year-old daughter, and it was lovely to be able to have that time with just us. I was driving and talking out loud about how I was simply not going to let anyone get to me and I was going to be all Zen in the moment and needed to remember that everyone else thinks their business is more important than mine and Hannah laughed and laughed but I had actually been being serious, which somehow made it funnier. We braved the mall and got great deals on clothes and were very prudent, shopping clearance and using gift cards and feeling very rich all the same. Hannah had a bra fitting at Victoria’s Secret and they told her she wears a double D which okay, there is no way in hell, she is more like a 32 ALMOST B, but of course they must have their own special sizing because…they want little tiny girls with little tiny breasts to THINK they are voluptuous? Who knows, I don’t go in there but I do like to sit on the bench outside and nurse Josie, daring someone to say something about being indecent.
We ate and went to Target and met the husband at Costco and it was lovely, we were rushed to get home in time to pick Eli up and take him back to the jail and get to a party we had been invited to but it worked out perfectly. We ate yummy food and gorgeous desserts and Santa came to give presents to all the little ones and Josie cried when she saw him but she danced and danced to the Christmas carols.
Home now, and the house is sleeping save me. I am looking at our hand-chopped tree and listening to the clink-clank of buttons tapping the dryer drum and my cat is curled up next to me, and I think this is happiness. I have so much. I have all of my kids, and even though one is not with us this year and that is terribly sad, they are all alive and well. My six-year-old is here to celebrate this Christmas and try to walk the narrow line of believing in Santa or not and he says over and over that Christmas is about being with family and we just say yes and hug him closer. We fight loudly and play even more loudly, the house expands to hold all of this chaos and mess and joy that is us, and we are just so full of all of it right now. Always, always, despair and sadness pass and we make room for happiness, because it is all intertwined and we just try to roll with it all.