To have become "utterly familiar with" the people his friend had met, with all his experiences in his time away, Karl Ove (the author's name is the same as the narrator-protagonists in this autobiographical novel or fictionalized memoir or whatever this hybrid genre might be) must be a more accommodating listener than anyone in my immediate circle. More fair, I think, would be to say that he has much more free time. My experience, and my husband's as well, has been that we might get a chance to describe one or two travel vignettes -- an amusing misunderstanding that arose from our clumsy wielding of a foreign language, a frustrating struggle through an airport with a near-miss at the boarding gate, -- perhaps we might be tolerated as we wax enthusiastic about a particularly magical meal or stunning example of contemporary architecture or a particularly lacking hotel room. But our listeners have been living full lives during our time away, and they have their own tales, and there's less conversational time available when we meet for coffee than we sometimes imagine in setting up that date.
Speaking about this phenomenon the other day, a friend suggested that it was rather like having waters close back over an experience --- not tidal waters, because then they would be back with us freshly each day. Rather, her analogy was more like when a small village in a valley is flooded in the construction of a major dam, so that you can still look down, on days when the deep waters of the resultant lake are still, and glimpse the ancient church fathoms below you, and imagine the villagers walking to the bakery from the little houses whose roofs you can just make out (if I remember correctly, Anne Michaels' beautiful novel The Winter Vault sketches several such scenes). Our travel experiences are still with us, but they're submerged under our daily activities, there if only we find a quiet moment to swim down to them, but altered forever by the waters of time that must close over them.
And the waters have been so busy here, with part of me reluctant to stay on the surface. . . So much I still want to think through, remember, write about, here, but I've been feeling very out of synch with my blog readers. I know that like me, you're having to prepare for Christmas, and I feel a pressure to write about all its preparations, its party clothes, gift-buying, parcel-wrapping, favourite recipes. I just don't feel particularly interested in doing so at this particular stage, instead spending far too many hours writing ever so many words about exhibitions I visited months ago. And believe, me, there's Much More where that post came from!
Today, though, Pater and I are heading off on a lovely pre-Christmas weekend. After yoga this morning, we'll visit our son's family after a leisurely drive through a scenic mountain pass with stunning ocean views. We'll watch our granddaughter show off her new mobility, which so far we've only seen on video and FaceTime. We'll stay in the grand old hotel where we spent part of our honeymoon (most of that trip 41 years ago was spent canoe-camping), We'll do some Christmas shopping as long as it doesn't get too frantic (I'm thinking bookstore!); we'll run together in the morning and go for a long walk in the evening, admiring the festive illumination downtown; we'll have lunch or dinner with our son, daughter-in-law, and Baby E, and then try to chase off the adults so that we can have Baby Girl to ourselves.
In some ways, it feels a rather bold or reckless move, taking a weekend away little more than ten days from when three young families arrive at our place for Christmas. The tree will be delivered while we're away, and we only have two half days together here next week before we slip away to "the other city" for some scheduled Christmas season activities with the rest of the family. Two half days to get the tree up and the lights strung and the boxes of Christmas decorations brought down and sorted through. The plan is that he'll put the tree up for me, and string the lights before he leaves on Monday, and I'll hang the decorations on my own, surprise him with O Tannenbaum! when he gets back on Wednesday for dinner with a friend.
We'll leave the next morning, and when we get back from that trip, we'll only have two days to grocery shop and to cook and bake and make up beds. I can't pretend that part of me's not whirring away anxiously, spitting out lists and schedules, and tasks. He, on the other hand, reassures, minimizes, reminds me of what's worked before and will work again. Part of the reassurance -- especially the minimizing! -- infuriates. But I know he's right. The most important parts of the family Christmas have always come magically together, as long as our priorities are clear.
For now, a top priority is enjoying the season's pleasures together, rather than fussing a month away over its preparations. So we're off, now . . . I expect I'll post a photo or two on Instagram, and I'm going to see if I can get Pater to finally capture a shot of me in my new, wide-legged jeans.
In case I appear entirely cavalier, I should tell you that I have a very clear, tightly edited gift list and confidence that I can pick up everything on it (I've called toy stores to have items held, ordered items online, and am knitting my fingers and wrists to the bone!). I've booked anchoring lunches for daughters' Christmas shopping expeditions, the Christmas day menu has been organized into a grocery list, and there's already one tourtière made up and waiting in the freezer. But I also have a long list of Don't Bother Anymore items as well as a list of Remember These Items/Activities are Choices, Not Obligations! See Annie's amusing post on same
Comments, you know, are very welcome. But I suspect you're all either working your way through the lists or devoting your time wisely to your own priorities, which might not include blog visits or comments. Just remember to Enjoy the Festive! Have some fun while you're fighting the shopping crowds (or get out of the crowds entirely!). Happy Penultimate Weekend before the Big Day!