Yesterday, the girl and I walked to our town's holiday season kick-off parade. We missed most of it but arrived just in time to see Santa ride in on the firetruck. Now, in our house, we talk about the history of St. Nicholas and do something festive on December 6th (St. Nicholas Day), like hang stockings and tuck little surprises down inside, or set up our tree, or put on a pot of cider, just something. But we don't "do" Santa. I totally don't care if other people do, we only know a handful of other Scrooges. Oh, no. We're quite jolly elves ourselves and it's certainly not an anti-santa thing we've got going. It's more like, honestly, I don't see the point. Some folks have shuddered and insinuated that I'm taking all the magic out of Christmas for my kid, to which I always screw up my face and respond, "have you met my kid?" Children are inherently wonderful and full of awe and bring their own magic with them; and my girl is nothing if not magical. I never invited the fat guy to spend the holidays with us and I have never regretted it at all. I think he has plenty of business elsewhere, so I'm sure he doesn't care either. Though, what with the rising cost of fuel and health care, I sometimes wonder, a little, if the North Pole's going to start outsourcing to India and if Christmas night might get pushed up til March or so? Shrug.
It was fortunate that our whole-day plumbing fiasco wrapped up just after nightfall, so we didn't miss the lighting of our town's tree. This was an event within walking distance (uh, like pretty much every event), and I had told the girl we would go; we were looking forward to it. We stopped for chai and coffee at the coffee shop up the street and joined a bundled up throng walking slowly up the street to the year 1960.
It was such a blast from the past. Okay, not my past, but the past I've built together from A Christmas Story and various other holiday movies. It was very charming and fine to be out on a cold (but dry!) night in late November with so many other town folk singing Jingle Bells. I was expecting, oh, I don't know what I was expecting. . . A town choir? Some children's group? I was not expecting a guy with a mic keeping the crowd from growing too restless by doling out knock-knock jokes. And then, the moment we were all waiting for (which we, being new to town, we didn't know what we were waiting for): Santa rode in on the firetruck! (that makes twice in one day!) The crowd ushered him in with enthusiastic chanting (san-ta! san-ta! san-ta!) and the husband and I exchanged smirks.
I am very honest about sharing, should the subject arise, that it took me a while to warm up to the idea of living here. We spent six months in a tiny, empty apartment while we house-hunted in places that weren't here. We thought an hour commute would be feasible for the husband if it meant keeping us closer to our known world. This plan fell apart from the beginning, but it took us several months before we admitted it. We decided to entertain the idea of maybe moving to this town and looked at three houses. The first two stunk and the third was just right. And here we are. I feel a little shy about saying that the more I'm here, the more I like it. The house, the town, the changes. It's different. It's not what I expected and certainly not at all what I thought I wanted. I wanted an airy bungalow with a big front porch. I wanted a clawfoot tub and lovely garden. I got a fifties ranch with a front stoop and yard with "potential". I got a soapstone fireplace and unpainted birch woodwork. I got a roomy place for my family to stay put and be still for a while. You can't always get what you want. . .
I knew we needed to have a library and parks, grocery store and coffee we could reach by foot or bike. We have access to all that and more. The less we are dependent on our car, the more successful I feel we are, as a family. I wish I meant that in some for-the-greater-good way (and that's certainly a priority) but, I'm really just referring to our time spent being slower and more observant and deliberate. It does us well.
Today the husband had to take a load of boxes to the recycling center. He was there and back, including a stop in at radio shack for a blown fuse, in less than half an hour. Everything's close by and I am glad for simple errands not taking up the whole day anymore (we shall speak nothing of our semi-monthly trips to the big city for trader joe's and various and sundry other big city things). We have more time together. We spend less on gas. We like living here.
I miss certain aspects of living in a larger metropolis, most assuredly. I think our county's curbside recycling is lacking (glass has to be taken in and what? no plastic tubs, huh?), the kindred spirit pool might be a little less deep (but, hey, it just takes a couple and we're mostly a comfortable, insular little family unit anyway), the vegetarian dining-out options are few (and no Indian restaurant for miles and miles, woe is me). But we are this little town now. We made a point to walk up to the tree lighting event and we stopped at the local shop for coffee and we were part of that crowd and sometimes it just feel good to be a part of something.