Everything and Nothing: The hush before Christmas
Posted December 13, 2022
By Aïda Rogers
There’s a moment close to Christmas Day when everything slows down. The crazy stuff stops and a hush descends, like the moment before the orchestra conductor puts down the baton and the applause erupts. You could call it “the pause that refreshes,” as the old Coca-Cola ad put it. Or just as good, the pause that restores.
Into that pause last year strolled my friend Amy. She politely called ahead. “I’ve got something for you,” she said. “I’m 25 minutes away; will you be home?”
Of course we were, and soon she was at the door, bearing a red-ribboned, plastic-wrapped paper plate of stickies, the holiday treat she and her mother make each year. Stickies, which are yummy cinnamon rolls, and sausage are their family’s traditional Christmas breakfast. Amy and her mother, Susan, make plenty and deliver them to friends. Lucky us to be on their list.
Our house wasn’t picture-perfect and it sure wasn’t decorated like a magazine, and on that cold morning we weren’t dressed in fine festive wear. But Amy is a friend, so none of that mattered. We invited her in, she sat on the couch, and then something wonderful happened: We visited.
“Visiting” was something that happened in my childhood. My mom would gather my sisters and me and we would walk down the street to chat with a neighbor. We wouldn’t stay long, but I remember Mrs. Addy smiling at us and opening the door wide. (This is also before little girls were allowed to wear pants to school or maybe at all.) Most visiting, at least for us, was of the family kind. It happened on Sunday afternoons. There would be a drive to our grandmother’s house in the country, where a porch swing somehow held three middle-aged adults, one playing a harmonica. The grown-ups talked, joked and sang; the rest of us turned cartwheels.
So when Amy appeared, stickies in hand, it seemed an especially old-fashioned and welcome thing. I couldn’t tell you a thing about what we talked about or how long she stayed, though we wished she’d stayed longer and we definitely wore pants. It was simply an interlude of friendly comfort, unhurried and unspectacular, apart from the frenzy that was finally whittling to a stop.
Christmas is so many things, maybe too many things. I’ve started thinking a visit with a treasured friend can be the best thing of all. I’m waiting for the hush.
Aïda Rogers writes from an old house in Columbia and a new porch in McClellanville. Her three-volume anthology series, State of the Heart: South Carolina Writers on the Places They Love, includes stories by 108 Palmetto State writers.
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