Leaning in to the mirror above the sink, Mom applies her lipstick carefully. There’s hardly room for both of us in the half-bathroom of this duplex we’re renting until our new house is ready. She’s all dressed up, though, so I’ve followed her in here to find out what’s up.
“Your father and I are going out for Christmas Eve.”
Huh? We celebrated Christmas a week ago, just before we left our Edmonton house to move to Calgary. It can’t be Christmas Eve again. Can it?
“Yes, it’s Christmas Eve.”
I remember her response as clearly as the bright red of her lipstick, the stiff rustle of her dress, and my own panic. The seven-year-old me is still caught in a terrible moment of undeniably logical consequences, no less bad for being completely unspoken: If it’s Christmas Eve tonight, then it will be Christmas tomorrow, and I don’t have presents for anyone. What am I gonna do?
My mother doesn’t remember this 1959 conversation: Why would she? It was New Year’s Eve, of course, not Christmas Eve. Like Yogi Berra, my mother may not really have said everything she said, no matter what I remember.
Oddly, I don’t remember much else about that evening. I don’t remember the colour of my mother’s dress. Or seeing my father, although he was certainly there. Or whether we had a babysitter or if my then twelve-year-old brother was deemed old enough to take charge of us.
More tellingly, I don’t remember any tears that night or the next morning, so somewhere in there I got things straightened out. But I don’t remember the “ah ha” moment either. Except for the moment of crisis, it’s all a fog.
The fog comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
On this year’s second Christmas Eve, then, maybe this makes as good a New Year’s resolution as any:
When the fog comes in, don’t panic. It will move on.