26 days before Christmas
Jenny goes Black Friday shopping with her friends and comes home exhausted, with zero purchases. The rest of us stay home and feel lazy.
23 days before Christmas
It is Monday, the last week before the school Christmas program. I glue some streamers onto some Home Depot boxes to make hedges, as a prop for the play I wrote. I go to a thrift store and buy some brown children’s pants, a fuzzy woman’s jacket, and a felt gingerbread-man-making-kit, which I will somehow craft into a puppy costume.
Several students still don’t know their lines.
19 days before Christmas
It’s the day of the school Christmas program! In the morning, I find out that two of my actors are sick. I coerce two other actors, who are good last-minute-line-memorizes, to take their place.
An hour and a half before the program is to start, I find out that another student is sick. I give her two lines to another little girl who also had two lines. Congrats, now you have four lines!
The program goes off with very few hitches. The biggest hitch of all, in my opinion, was that not everyone could see the adorable first grader in his puppy costume. Because he was crawling, and the stage wasn’t very high, and there were lots of people there.
13 days before Christmas
We don’t do nearly as many Christmas parties in Oregon as they do in Delaware, but we do have one: Our young adult Sunday school class gets together to eat and play games.
There is no theme. No one wears ugly sweaters, and no one exchanges white elephant gifts, and we don’t play any silly party games where you have to shove balloons into pantyhose to make reindeer horns.
We literally just hang out and play normal games and eat amazing food and have interesting discussions, and it is spectacular.
10 days before Christmas
It is Sunday night. I get a text from the high school teacher. Can I substitute teach, starting Tuesday afternoon and continuing to the end of the week? He has a family emergency of sorts.
7 days before Christmas
It is a Wednesday morning, and I’m getting into the swing of this substitute teacher thing. The students have begun to prepare some fun party games, because on Friday, we will have a Christmas party.
Then the principal, Mr Chris, walks in. “We’re ending at noon today, and closing school down until after Christmas,” he says. “Too many people are sick.”
6 days before Christmas
The crowds of fun people have begun to arrive for the holidays. I have tea with my friends Shanea and Esta. Shanea presents us with exotic, delicious tea flavors from Malaysia. The three of us discuss the enneagram types of everyone we know.
4 days before Christmas
Mom, Amy, and I leave the house at 5:15 am. We go to the Gospel Echoes office and climb on the bus, where we encounter a number of other volunteers. We sit around, sipping tea and munching on coffee cake as we drive north to the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility.
We are here. We get buzzed through the doors. I take out my bobby pins when we go through the metal detector, because the ladies in front of me set it off, and now they have to get wanded.
First, we are at the minimum-security women’s prison. We unload boxes of cookies, and Christmas cards that were hand-colored by volunteers–mostly children. We set up in the cafeteria, and they file through. “Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!” we say. Shaking hands. Some of them smile. Some are stone-faced. Some cry.
As we’re wrapping up, preparing to go across the parking lot to the medium security section, we see that they’re setting up for another event. There are toys, and games.
And then the doors open, and the children come in.
“Mom! Mom!” this is their Christmas visit, with their children. We watch them hug, and cry, and laugh, and talk all over each other. We’re leaving now, but I can’t take my eyes off of them. What must that be like? It’s Christmas, and here they are, separated from their children except for this visit.
On the medium-security side, there are no children. At least, not today. We go through another metal detector, and then through doors, and doors, and more doors that slam behind us with a *click* or a *clank*! More women, in rows and rows. Hand them a Christmas card. Hand them a cookie. “Merry Christmas!”
My heart hurts. I’m sorry this is all I can give you.
2 days before Christmas
Matt is home, and it feels like Christmas now. We lounge around in our PJ’s and eat cookies. We talk weddings, and bitcoin, and Matt’s new job.
“Will you be working for NASA, or for a contractor?” I ask. “I’m confused.”
“Well, technically a contractor, but I’ll be working at the Johnson Space Center,” says Matt. “NASA can only hire so many employees, so they contract a lot of stuff out.”
“I say he’s working at NASA,” Mom says.
“That works,” says Matt.
Technically it is two days until Christmas, but the festivities will not end on December 25. There’ll still be the extended Smucker family Christmas gathering, and Matt and Phoebe’s engagement party. We’re celebrating Gotcha Day on December 29 this year instead of December 24, because Steven is still in Las Vegas. And then there will be the family Christmas, and the trip to the coast.
But I’m tired of blogging every day, so I’ll end this season of Blogging, the 12 Days of Blogmas, tomorrow, on Christmas Eve.