No one in the family likes this hat. Composed of odds and ends of yarn leftover from other projects, it flops at the back halfheartedly, neither all the way down nor pointing straight out. No one has a coat that matches it either. Its awkward, like the sad uncle who shows up at Christmas and slumps in the plaid wing chair, sending out waves of malaise along with a faint aroma of wet wool, coffee breath, and an under note of evergreen air freshener.
I rescued the hat from among the others this morning to give it an airing on the dog walk. It DID match my clunky brown Sorel boots. Maybe there’s hope for the hat. Maybe I just need a new winter jacket to make it all work.
Every Christmas I cast about for the one thing – the activity, the food, the gift, the craft, the decorations – that will pull it all together, make the day work, lift the spirits, feed the soul. Make the hat loved. It’s never as simple as a new wardrobe. Sometimes its surprising. Often it is unplanned, like the dog walk this morning along the path beside Sawmill Creek.
This morning big, wet flakes lumbered out of the sky sticking to everything like icing sugar. We call it Hollywood snow. And it was a perfect morning, my youngest daughter decided, to go for a walk and take photos.
The townhomes that back onto Sawmill Creek had a gingerbread house quality – golden brown and capped with royal icing. Flaky cold hors d’oeuvres fell so slowly you could open your mouth and catch them easily on your tongue. My hands sweat in my thick mitts, it was that mild a morning, despite the wet snow.
It was a slow walk down the path. My daughter stopped to take photos every few steps and pushed through the snow to the creek’s edge to get a good picture of the mallards puddling in the water. We listened to the chickadees – surely the bravest birds – and the cardinals whooping it up on the tops of trees, when the thing, the one thing that pulled Christmas together, landed on my nose, melted, then dripped onto my upper lip, a sin and a sorrow, gone that fast. If I had been frog-marching the dog down the path as I usually do, rushing the little beast through his walk so I could get back home to do something else on the Christmas list, I might have missed it. But we were inside a snow-globe, hearing flakes splash in the creek, watching for the flash of the cardinal in the black and white world, listening to the creek burble sloppily on course to Christmas day.
The thing? The one thing? I was with my daughter, doing something she wanted to do. It was that simple.
And so I wish for you, my family, my friends, a simple and Merry Christmas; a Joyeux Noel.
* On the winter solstice in Ottawa, we had 9 hours and 15 minutes of light. If you look at the Creek, you’ll see where the light went.