Leaning Back

A cold, ice-particle-laden gust of wind swirled down the face of the hospital building, pushing so hard against my body I had to lean forward to make headway. Walking at my side was a coworker, Barb. She commented jokingly, “Here we are, walking through the tundra again.” Some of the ice particles melted on my face while others found their way under my neck scarf. I shivered and put my mitten-clad hand to my frosted forehead, wondering if it was possible to experience brain-freeze from a cold wind.

Barb complained, “Why in the world was this hospital built with a north-facing entrance? We always get a big downdraft in our face just as we get close to entering.”

Through gritted teeth I answered, “I don’t know what the engineers were thinking. But, at least on hot summer days, we get a welcome cool breeze.”

As Barb and I silently walked to the unit where we worked, I thought about Christmas, only two weeks away. I still had some Christmas cards to send, presents to wrap and cookies to bake. Our tree, usually put up a few days before Christmas, wasn’t even bought!

Clocking in to start my shift, I glanced at Barb and ruefully commented, “Getting ready for Christmas is a full-time job. I should be at home today!”

Barb nodded and wistfully reminisced, “When I was little, I couldn’t wait until Christmas day. I wanted time to rush.”

I laughed and admitted, “The same with me. It seemed I was always leaning forward into time, wishing it would pass more quickly. Mom’s stern advice was, ‘Don’t wish your life away. Enjoy each moment you have.’  Now, as a grown-up, I’m still spending the weeks before Christmas leaning. But instead of wishing the time to pass quickly, I’m wishing time would slow down so I can get stuff done.”

Barb chuckled, “I know what you mean.”

More to myself than to Barb, I admitted, “In the back of my mind, I realize that Christmas will come whether I’m ready or not! Yet, I continue to stress and strain!”  

My busy work day kept my mind off Christmas, but the minute the shift ended, my thoughts returned to preparations I wanted to do at home. As I slowly trudged uphill to the employee parking lot, I wondered, “Wouldn’t it be nice to once again experience Christmas as a small child, to not have expectations, to be surprised and excited when presents are placed before you?”

As I reached my car, the strong papermill smell coming from Mosinee made me wrinkle my nose. The wind direction had changed since this morning and I knew that meant snow was on the way. While waiting for my car to warm before pulling out of the parking spot, I remembered how every snow fall was a gift from heaven when I was a kid.

Discontentedly, I realized, “Gifts are another thing that has changed for me. As a kid I loved opening presents. Now, as an adult, I feel embarrassed and self-conscious when I open presents. I also worry that the gifts I give will not be enjoyed or appreciated.” I had several errands to run before leaving town. In the back of my mind I kept thinking about how twisted Christmas was for me since reaching adulthood.

Heavy, wet snow was falling by the time I arrived home. Arnie pulled into the yard shortly after I did. Then the bus dropped Niki and Tammie off. Leaving their school bags on the dining room floor, the girls went back outside to play in the accumulating snow.

An hour later, after boiling potatoes, heating vegetables and making mushroom hamburgers, I sat down with my family to eat. Listening to the friendly table conversation between the girls and Arnie, I leaned back to relax before joining the banter, thinking, “Christmas will come whether I get everything done or not.”

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