Lakeshore has become a ghost town, as the holidays approach. The phone rarely rings, and, usually, it is a sales call asking to speak to the “pastor for the church,” or “head of accounts receivable,” or maybe even “the one who makes the decisions about the Pitney Bowes account.” In this time of relative quiet, you often lose some of your social skills like words and complete sentences.
I’ve been on a mission this week to clean up my office, which is usually in such terrible shape that I have to ask guests to sit in the main room of the office. I have a tendency to let things that I feel I should get to soon pile on my desk or floor or chair, and I, then, don’t get to them. My office also sometimes becomes considered as a storage room for anything my position entails. So, ropes equipment, animal bones, items left by former staff, and a wide assortment of other things get left on my floor. This time, I’m feeling good about my progress. The office is probably cleaner than it was the day I was hired, and I have developed a system to prevent unwanted piling, though it’s probably not exciting to anyone but me.
When you lock yourself in an office and concentrate on a task such as cleaning, you enter your own thoughts. When you spend hours awake, focusing on a project, not talking, a phone call can be an awkward thing. I don’t consider myself a brilliant conversationalist in the first place, but a phone call during this time, puts my at one of my social lows. I’ll forget words, take paragraphs to get across something that should be a sentence, and probably sound to the person on the other line like one of the staff’s children, asked to answer the phone if it rings while they cross the street to get the mail. But, maybe in this season of peace and goodwill, callers will forgive my inability to converse.
The staff Christmas party took place this past Thursday in the Alford Recreation Center. Bill decorated the building, so our eyes were treated to all kinds of candy, while our stomachs were treated to even more. Gary talked about how good a year we had as a camp. How, even though we faced big budget cuts, we had managed to come out in the black. He talked about how important every person who contributed to what Lakeshore does is important. It was a good feeling to be with all these friends and their families, sharing food, gifts, and stories. And, there was a candy bar, with enough candy for the kids (and their parents) to fill up a bag or two to take home.
With the weather bouncing around as it has, and the fact that Christmas advertising started a few days before Halloween, it’s been difficult for me to remember each day it is growing closer. I am a Christmas romantic, religiously and secularly. I love Christmas music, decorations, movies, and pretty much any other nostalgia you can heap on. I am in love with that movie version of Christmas in the 40s and 50s, as the war had ended, and we were on top of the world. The train pulled into our small towns bringing family, gifts, black-and-white, and swing music. The fireplace kept us warm almost as much as love and good-will did. Just play Nat King Cole’s version of “The Christmas Song,” dust the ground with snow, and sit me next to the fire with a warm drink, and I am in Christmas bliss.
Of course, even the greatest Christmas highs must experience the eventual come-down. I tried hard to close my ears while in Wal-Mart in the middle of November to avoid the Christmas music I was not yet supposed to hear. I knew it was too soon. I held off as long as I could, but on the evening of Thanksgiving, I gave in, and played Christmas music. And, it was everything I hoped it would be. It was nostalgic and dreamy. It could have only been better if a one-horse open sleigh had pulled up to whisk Allyson and I away to pick out the perfect tree, which we would bring back to decorate with popcorn, candles, and tinsel.
But, here we are weeks later, one week still to go before Christmas, and the glamour has worn off a bit. Most of our Christmas parties have already happened in this marathon of present giving, tasty food eating efficiency. The presents have mostly been bought, and if they haven’t, you’re probably about to have a mental break down due to the stress of it all. I still play my music and enjoy my decorations, but there are times it is like that brand new album you get that you’re so pumped about, so you listen to it over and over and over. Then, by Tuesday, you’re ok to put it away for a while and listen to Coldplay again.
Today, Allyson and I took the afternoon to go to town. There was a blood drive going on at First Methodist, so we both took a good book and signed ourselves up. Yolanda was the name of the nurse who pricked my finger and asked me all the questions about traveling to other countries, using needles, and the others I won’t go into further detail on (this is, after all, a family blog). She was wearing a bracelet with a picture in the center, and I could tell it was a saint or some sort of religious painting. I asked who it was after we had talked for a while, and it turned out to be the Virgin Mary. I did not think about it till after returning to the office what a nice reminder this time of year.
I may have heard, “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” one too many times at the moment, but during this season, if you pay close enough attention, Mary and Joseph are making their way to Bethlehem, as we speak. I am hoping that when I come down from my secular Christmas high that I’ll land in the stable right next to a sheep or an ox. I’ll settle into a patch of hay in the corner and be quietly amazed by the beauty of the night, the peace after such travel and hardship. I will remind myself that there is still plenty to come. Christmas is just beginning.