"What do I wish for you this Christmas?
Not something you'll find in a store,
But gifts that live in your heart and home,
When the holly's gone from your door."
- Kay Hoffman
Anticipation and dread, we're told, rarely match the experiences they precede. We usually survive work deadlines, final exams and trips to the dentist, while the fun things fall short of the utopia we wanted them to be.
So as I compare my Christmas expectations this year with what really happened, I ask myself whether the positive or negative was the stronger of the two emotions. The votes aren't all in yet, but early returns reveal the following:
I'll never get everything done. I did, all the important stuff anyway.
I'll spend a lot of time alone. I didn't, even turned some invitations down.
I'll make a colossal blunder in some church music program. I didn't, grateful for the appreciative response from the dear folks in my congregation.
This won't be one of my better Christmases. It was, and I couldn't help contrasting this one with the year I made a trip to New England for what I thought would be my first white Christmas in years. That one didn't go anything like I planned, not even the white part.
Much went better than expected: I asked for one sweater and got four; I saw my entire family for the first time in many years; and I didn't get caught in a blizzard, though I was kind of hoping for the latter. But the day I accompanied a friend to the Motor Vehicle Office to register her new car was an entirely unscheduled event.
The other car was going somewhere, too; neither of us made it to our destination.
We had the right of way through the intersection. Even though it was a beautiful, clear day, the other driver said he didn't see us.
We skidded 50 feet after applying the brakes and still hit him broadside. Both vehicles spun around, littering the highway with glass, metal, and more debris than you could pull from a loaded sanitation truck, and both were essentially totaled.
The cars could be replaced. All three of us survived; we couldn't have been. Both drivers experienced remorse: the other fellow because of his citation and presumed new insurance rates, and my friend because " well, how would you feel if your new car lay in ruins?
Bodily injuries were minor, a bump on the other driver's leg and a sprained wrist for me. Knowing we could easily have been part of the roadway debris, I would wear my ensuing splint with immense gratitude.
I had never been injured in an accident before and I didn't know how thorough EMTs and Emergency Room personnel can be. I was embarrassed by all that attention for a band-aid and a wrist splint: an ambulance ride, X-rays, vital signs checked and rechecked, and more questions than you hear on a month of Jeopardy. There were even hospital volunteers to keep me occupied while I awaited the next round of tests.
Except for one minor experience, the cure would have been uneventful: Have you ever tried to open a childproof medication cap with one hand?
"Simply line up the arrows," the instructions said. Maybe if I hadn't injured my good hand."
Twenty minutes later the cap finally popped off, but the cotton was a good inch below the cap and wadded up like setting cement. The only solution was a sharp instrument wielded, you remember, by a one-armed paperhanger. I nearly sprained my other wrist trying to follow doctor's orders to "take two aspirin for pain and inflammation."
I exaggerate the aspirin, but not the accident or the value of seat belts and the grace of God.
With Christmas over, I'm guessing you have now entered the New Year with the same conflicting emotions I do, dreading some things while hoping the good will multiply like my Christmas sweater. Some of the things we survived this past year should buoy our spirits, reduce our dreads and carry us forward with realistic enthusiasm.
May 2006 exceed all your expectations, and fall far short of your dreads.
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.