Christmas Eve morning, before the celebrating begins, I stop at my usual coffee place. My car is stuffed with boxes of wrapped presents, the ribbons only slightly frayed from the sniper attacks of my cats. There is wine in the car. There are flannel pajamas and opal earrings and a shimmery skirt for church. Sometimes I bring my guitar so we can sing Christmas carols acoustic, like hippies.
Inside the coffehouse, it is the quietest day of the year. Although I recognize most of the regulars, people rarely speak on that day. They just smile acknowledgment. We are all hiding from Christmas.
Some people, I’m sure, are hiding from how awful Christmas will be. Their first Christmas divorced. Their first Christmas missing someone who has died. Another Christmas with some relative who, they expect, will jab them in the same sore place.
I’m usually happy about Christmas, though. It’s not that I dread some anticipated hurt, it’s just that our celebration is such a boisterous, marathon event. Once I get on the train, I’m halfway across the holiday before I even look out the window.
One last moment of hiding from it is sweet. For one moment, drink your coffee like you always do, and read the newspaper, like it is a normal day.
You know what is coming. It may be delicious. But for now, let all the presents be wrapped. Let them all be secrets. Keep wondering how happy someone will be, someone who will open your most carefully chosen, or hard-sought, or expensive gift. It’s still wrapped. It’s all still hidden. Your memory of this Christmas is as clean as a snowed-over sidewalk. The footprints will appear later.