The first day of winter is here, and with it “the longest evening of the year.” I do not begrudge the way of winter. The rabbit patch , like all of the earth has earned the rest that winter offers. Fields lay bare, as they ought to now and trees do not cast shade, but both have served their purpose faithfully. They have fed us and so I can not bring myself to quarrel with either. The cold wind grooms the countryside with an icy hand at times and makes me grateful for the hearth in the old farmhouse.
Schools closed early today and does not resume til after the new year. I came home and wrapped a few more gifts while supper simmered. Moon Shine behaved awfully the entire time. I do not dare let him near the Christmas tree. There is an old french door keeping him out of mischief . I see how he stares through the glass panes and I declare he is plotting . He is a fat kitten with a shining tuxedo, these days before Christmas. It seems a long while ago that he was a wild kitten.
I will spend the first few days of winter, in Elizabeth City. Jenny and I have some shopping left. I do not mind shopping in little book stores , nor looking for fine coffee. My Christmas list is tattered and worn by now. Soon, it will be placed in a scrap book as a record , of sorts. Lyla has already opened “The Night Before Christmas” and tomorrow she will open a little china cup, that Jenny predicts, will not last long.
The truth is, most gifts do “not last long”. Some are used up. Many get scattered about or broken, by and by. Trendy gifts lose their charm very quickly and any sort of gadget becomes out-dated in less than a fortnight. People say “it is the thought that counts” and I have found this to be accurate.
When my grandmother died, Pop, did not know what to do with Christmas. Delores and I were very young teenagers, the year he decided to shop on his own. Delores opened her gift first. It was a set of earrings-and they were ugly. She held one of them up, stunned. They were bold and big. I could not imagine any occasion to wear them and the look on her face caused me to cackle. I finally sputtered something about their beauty and how I couldn’t wait to see her wear them. Delores gave me a hateful look , which tickled me more. Pop, was totally unaware of my amusement-he was upset because Delores had opened MY present! Oh, how swiftly revenge came. Now Delores, was laughing as she handed me the box with deepest regrets. She ended up with a dainty necklace, pretty enough to put on right that minute.
I am older now and have since imagined Pop in the unfamiliar territory of a store that did not sell fertilizer. I wonder how long it took him to pick out our gifts and I am just sure he did put a lot of thought in them. I am also sure he had rather been cleaning out a barn or mowing a ditch bank than shopping. Sadly, I do not know what became of those earrings, but I remember Pop presenting his gifts proudly with a big smile . . . It really is the thought that counts, after all- for that is what has lingered within me. That happened many, many winters ago, when I was young- and before I understood such things.