Wednesday, January 1, 2014

When Time Stands Still

Our Christmas tree is still fully decorated.  Mary, Joseph, and two dozen village artisans in the nativity are still being rearranged multiple times a day.  The children's gifts litter the living room rug, too new to have found a permanent dwelling place as of yet.  And sparking gift bags laced with curling ribbon pile high on my dining room table. 

Walk into my house, and you might easily believe it to be the afternoon of December 25 rather than late evening, January 1.  Even the aroma of the season still lingers in the air, what with husband cooking two pots of shrimp and andouille gumbo.

Although the new year has begun, I have been living in a timeless space for the past four days.  These are the days that have no date, no time, no agenda.  Bedtimes are pushed back; chores are put off for tomorrow; playtime has no limits or boundaries.  Mealtimes, though flexible, become the only way of marking time. 

Such is the story of what happens each year when my brother and his wife drive down from North Carolina for a visit.  The calendar simply stops moving.  It is as if for just a moment, we are able to step outside the lightening fast stream of time and just pause, enjoy each other's company.  Nothing more. 

Just.  Family.
We do nothing extraordinary enough to be memorable and yet everything is memorable.  Aunt Liza braids little girl hair, makes a crayon masterpiece, and plays UNO for the umpteenth time without complaining.  Uncle Johnathan plays hide and go seek and tag-you're-it, sinks several fleets in Battleship, and brightens three children's day by letting them fire the cannon, then swirl smoky sparklers through the air.

We smile and laugh more than we will for the next year.  

This is happiness.

Tonight, the family all said our goodbyes.  I hugged necks one last time and inhaled the scent of loved ones who I'll see through Skype but won't be able to experience like this, not with the warmth of flesh and blood soft beneath my fingers. 

Oldest child crying from exhaustion in the back seat, I put the van into gear and merge back into the blur of light that instantly propels me into the realm of responsibility, deadlines, a refrigerator that needs cleaning out, and laundry piled to the ceiling.

But even as I stuff a second load of blue jeans in the wash, I can't help but think that I just left behind what was meant to be and what will be again. 

Timelessness.  Together.  Family.

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