Sunday, December 31, 2017

Dec. 31, 2017 Is the Seventh Day of Christmas: Remember, There Are Twelve





            Christmas is only half over. Today may be the last day of the year 2017, but it's only the seventh day of Christmas. As the song says, those days number twelve.
            The first day of Christmas did not begin auspiciously. A brief flurry was in the forecast, with some more substantial snow, maybe a few inches, predicted for further south. But just as we were finishing breakfast and packing for the mid-morning drive to make a ferry reservation to cross the Long Island Sound, the sky clouded over and those brief flurries turned into a blizzard. I have subsequently been assured that this was "a fast-moving storm." And in fact about the time I had given up on that ferry reservation and re-centered our hopes on finding an unreserved spot on a later ferry, the puffball snow drop shut off as if someone had turned a spigot and the sun came out to take a good look at the sky's recent accomplishment.
            "We're going!" I announced. Making the reservation might be a long shot: It's a two and a half hour dash under normal conditions, and the interstates might not be fully plowed, or plowed at all. But -- as I said -- it had stopped snowing.
            The highways were far from fully plowed, at one point we were trapped behind a trio of enormous snow removal tractors, one for each lane. And even when we had left the snow zone behind (Connecticut barely had a sugaring), the traffic that had been unable to get off early as planned because of the snow -- like us-- was now jousting for road room. When we reached the Bridgeport exit, I declared an optional traffic-laws zone, ignored a half dozen red lights, and arrived at check-in only a few minutes late. With the ferry still at the dock, I was told by a kid with a radio to get in line -- behind people who did not have reservations.
            "But we have a reservation!"
            "You're late."
            "There was a snowstorm in Massachusetts."
            "You're way over the cut-off time."
            Cut-off time? The phrase was new to me. Is that the time when I cut off your ear?
             Somehow we made it onto the boat, the last of the small cars in the small-car spaces, our back bumper licking salt from the Long Island Sound. We didn't rock the boat, but the boat rocked us, lifting its flanks to the sky from the swells produced by that fast-moving storm.
            Still, we reached our destination, had a great Christmas dinner, sang the old songs... And his was only the first day of Christmas. What was the day like? It was sort of like a partridge in a pear tree.
            On the second day of Christmas we drove from Suffolk County on Long Island to Riverdale, at the northern tip of the City of New York. My son driving, it was pretty much a vacation day for me. Anne's parents were waiting for us, perched in their comfortable armchairs like two turtle doves.
            We 'ordered in' for dinner -- is that the expression? the other expression is 'nobody cooks in New York City' -- from a Chinese restaurant and a sushi place. I have noticed that no group of American diners numbering more than two (and some fewer) can agree on eating the same thing. A couple of years ago we watched an endless parade of bike-riding delivery guys streaking down Lexington Avenue to bring Saturday night chow to all the apartments on the East Side. 
            For entertainment we watched, for maybe the 20th time, an incredibly sweet and clever short film version of Dylan Thomas's incredibly nostalgic and brilliant memoir, "A Child's Christmas in Wales." Sometimes family groups are able to watch the same thing.
            On the third day of Christmas (and the second day in Riverdale) a longtime family friend of my wife's clan, a world traveler and bearer of tidings, paid a holiday call to Anne's parents. A trio of their house guests, my wife, daughter and self sat in on our visitor's this state of the world and brooded over this mixed report (families growing; cities sinking) like -- you've guessed it -- three French hens.
            On the fourth day we were on the road again. Departing New York after the morning commute but not quite soon enough, we arrived back in the Boston sphere of commuter influence at an hour early enough, one would hope -- especially on Christmas week! -- to escape the 'evening' commute. But no, evening starts early (well before the hasty departure of the winter sun), and plenty of that metro-traffic was waiting for us. We arrived home in time to feel the deep New England freeze, and I was surprised to find the bird feeder not completely empty.
            If there were four calling birds about, I did not see them.
            On the fifth day of Christmas, we went back to our routine, a day of work and a visit to the gym afterwards,even though the ancient course of the holiday still had a week to run. 
            What did we have to show for the day? Five gold coins?
            On the sixth day of Christmas, the weekend had arrived so we did not work, but the glowering sky and the persistent cold kept us from whatever festivities might be on offer. Our outings were of the accumulative short. Between shopping for our screen appetites, movies and TV series at the library, and healthy food at the expensive food store, I have no doubt we acquired the equivalent of six geese-a-laying. Actually, we roasted one of them for dinner.
            On the seventh day, the punishing and enduring cold promises to have us once more swimming upstream. Not only is today Sunday , but the widely celebrated folk holiday of New Year's Eve, so we venture forth despite the cold to dine with a friend. With our children absent, that still leaves us four swans short of the necessary social swim. I suspect, however, if we watch the silly descent of the infamous ball, there among the crowd we will find our swans swimming along nicely, their long graceful necks pointing to the future, assured of their personal charms, and their happy white tails trailing obediently behind.