This is not our typical December. By now, my world is usually a blur of white, the clang of Salvation Army bells ringing in my ears as I rush from aisles to lines to cars to a house of wrapping paper, desperately trying to remember what I've forgotten (because surely, I've forgotten something). As much as I love the details of December: the reason for celebration; family coming together; the stillness of a first snow, the child-like flurry of activity it elicits, and appreciation of a warm house that follows; neighbors making the ordinary extraordinary with a sprinkling of well-placed lights and garland; and the perfect excuse to guzzle gallons of hot chocolate, something about the season always feels a bit too rushed. I will tell you a secret. Christmas is not my favorite holiday. I get a little too distracted by it all. In the past few years, I've tried to simplify things a bit: make more gifts and avoid more lines, limit the travel.
But this year, simplifying Christmas has taken on a whole new bent. Travel has become very limited (due to a concerned doctor and family members who don't want me too stray too far from the hospital); some handmade gifts were made in advance and the other gifts were handled with a "striving for the best we could manage" rather than a "stressing to find the best possible" attitude. The Christmas cards may or may not get finished in time. The frequent strong kicks to my abdomen remind me that this little one is so near, and he's brought our focus home in a way it hasn't been in Decembers past. And so, Christmas is coming along like it does every year: the tree is decorated, the lights are out, the gifts are wrapped, but, this year, it is coming on a softer current as we prioritize a bit differently.
Yesterday, those priorities led us to the zoo. Audrey had mentioned wanting to go that morning. After a couple errands and a check-up with my doctor, I steered the car away from the other items on my to-do list and downtown toward the zoo. Although overcast, the day had pulled off a balmy 46 degrees. The zoo belonged to us, and maybe a dozen others. As we walked, the absence of winter white was clear. Christmas decorations poked out of dry leaves, the pavement covered by the yet to be evaporated rain. And at every turn, we were greeted with pops of yellow. Which somehow, in this unusual December on what could be one of my last single dates with my favorite gal, seemed just about right.
*Oh, and for those of you wondering - that favorite holiday of mine? It's the Fourth of July. Strawberries, blueberries, an evening that ends in fireworks, and the good fortune to spend most of mine near the water - what's not to like?