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Christmas Countdown

by Nedda Davis

Two nights before Christmas...

Here we sit, snared in holiday traffic at a busy intersection--a small girl, her mother--the fatigue of a long day's errands closing in tighter than the press of blinking tail lights around us. My impatient imagination chafes to take wing--rising up and over the thickening gridlock--but I suppose I'd only land back among the pressures and last-minute tasks that loom oppressively at home. Assuming we get home. The light flickers red to green to red again, and tapping the steering wheel I watch the fuel gauge nudging toward empty.

Snow and sleet spit through the darkness, ticking their own muffled rhythm, as if the December weather were counting the minutes as restlessly as I am. Bundled against the chill, my three-year-old daughter peers with me through the swish of the wipers. Reaching her way, I squeeze the mittened hand that slips tranquilly into mine, and manage a glance in her direction.

There in the dusk, my gaze unexpectedly encounters a face alight. "Oh, arent' we having a good time!" Huge blue eyes sparkle. "Being here together!"

In the glow of her gladness, I catch my breath. What good time? Being here together?

Her joy catches me by surprise, reeling my thoughts suddenly backward. Back to the memory of a longer wait--a pregnancy I'd wanted and prayed for. There had been difficulties, and we'd nearly lost the little girl now sitting up in her car seat in her flush of happiness. With a miscarriage threatening, doctors had ordered me to bed. I remember afresh the weeks of forced rest shuffling themselves through the calendar--and how I'd finally begun schooling myself to give thanks for each hour she and I got through. Together.

I thought I'd learned something about gladness in the face of immobility and delay. I couldn't get to my desk, but I could knit gifts, and handle many jobs at a bedside phone. Couldn't lug heavy laundry baskets around, but sat folding clean clothes carried upstairs by my family, chatting with the children, a little amused at rejoicing in a chore I normally detested. I thought I'd learned...

Now I sit behind the wheel of a car on a blustery winter night, holding myself hostage once more to my sense of hurry.

Must I always be in such a rush to get on with my life--as if there were nothing worth seeking in the moment at hand? Confined to a bed, I'd once relearned an elementary, yet vital, lesson: our need to rejoice occasionally in what simply is. Children seem to sense this in some inborn way.

It strikes me there's something more important here than just getting home. And I want to address the question--if it is a question--"Aren't we having a good time!"

"Well, yes. A very good time... . Being here together!"

Come to think of it, we're so ready for Christmas. I can taste the snowflakes on my tongue.

Copyright Nedda Davis, originally published in Welcome Home, the monthly journal published by Mothers at Home/Family and Home Network from 1984-2004. Nedda served as Welcome Home's first poetry editor. She continues to write; she attended seminary and is now a spiritual director.