Monday, December 10, 2007

Inviting Christmas

So with great reluctance, I finally put my Thanksgiving away, the little Pilgrims and Indians back in the closet, the glorious red and russet leaves, still shiny, into a bag to throw away. All the pumpkins, great and small, a turban squash and the one truly royal, squat one were moved onto the terrace, awaiting transformation, as most of us do. There were no maple leaves on my table this year, because Spring came so late to my side of the street, and things bloom and flower and leaf here in strange disarray, as the sun hits them, so my side blossomed with jacaranda later than anywhere else, including across the street, and the maples never tired and dropped Fall onto the sidewalk, even into December.
But last year I'd had big, not exactly fat but scenically lush maple leaves on my table, and when I put the Pilgrims away, I found them, sprayed gold, as I'd done for last Christmas, still intact and ready to welcome the late come and even later acknowledged new holiday. It had been my plan to go to New York to meet up with loved friends, but the sweetest of them got ill, so the plan was cancelled. In my heart, where Jimmy Carter lusted, I was relieved, because I'd started my new novel and was grateful to stay put, especially when the news came in that it was 21 degrees in Manhattan.
Then I hied me to Blick Art supplies to get the gold spray for the pumpkins and the nuts and the pine cones I'd collected all year-- not many, but when you see one, you know to keep it, like a good friend. I had stopped by Trader Joe's for fresh flowers, some sprigs of pine, and roses, and drove into the sidestreet by Blick's, to park my car. There was a young woman pulling into one metered space in the shade, and as I had Mimi in the car, I pulled up beside her to ask her to move forward so Mimi wouldn't be parked in the sun. I honked my horn, before I saw how or who she was. To my surprise and general universal sorrow, her face was flat against the wheel, her hands holding the sides of it, her posture, shoulders not quite heaving, one of complete despair. I knew that it was only love that could do that, and wondered why it is called love.
Empathetic as I try to be and mostly am, I am also Mimi's mom, so I rolled down my window and asked her if she was all right and would she mind moving up. She was Asian, and young, and very lovely, her eyes not quite streaming. "It's going to be all right," I said, and hoped it would be. I went over to her after I'd parked and told her I was sorry for whatever it was, not saying I knew it was love, but that she was young and lovely, and everything would change as it always does. She asked me if we had to put money in the meter. As it was Sunday we didn't.
I saw her again inside Blick's, and knew she was an artist, so wanted to tell her to use what she was feeling to make a great work of art. But I lost sight of her in between the rows of paint and great displays of brushes, and couldn't show her something I'd found in one of those little books they sell for $4.95 that have about twenty words and are making people fortunes, that said 'Creativity solves everything."
I gathered up my spray paints and glitter, and paid and left. Her car was still on the street. So I took the most beautiful of the long-stemmed roses and left it in the handle of her car door.
When I got home I gilded all the pumpkins, and silvered a fallen branch I'd picked up in March it must have been, and set it in a glass vase by my fireplace, strung it with candy canes, stuck in some pine branches, and added some water. Then I hung some captious angels and red and green and glittery Irish fairy folk from the little dangles on the ceiling that are supposed to hold speakers for the sound system, but as I don't have one here, I imagined Carols in my head, and even sang "We Three Kings," first the melody, then the harmony. Star of Wonder, Star of Night. My daughter-in-law is very observant, so they have been celebrating Chanukah, and as our relationship is just starting to get really good, I know better than to try and show her my Christmas.
But it is very beautiful. Most glorious are the nuts spread out on the sideboard, all sprayed gold. Almonds are good, and that great ugly nut that my old friend the musician Tiger Haynes called 'nigger toes' because he could, being black, hold the gild beautifully. But best are the hazel nuts, as they add their own shine. And there's glitter on the pine cones. They stand like a magic forest around the nuts, so you'd hardly know this was Los Angeles.
And then I invited Christmas to come. I hope it comes to all of you. I hope it comes Big Time to the woman in the car.