When I cross something off my bucket list, it’s usually something I wouldn’t have thought to put on the list until it happens.
Like “work with a similarly language-obsessed friend in alphabetizing her mother’s herbs and spices.”
Or “see a mink in the wild.”
Or “taste a bacon-chocolate chip cookie.”
Or “stand still and strangely unafraid, perhaps even temporarily invisible, on a paved driveway as a skunk dragging a squirrel carcass by the scruff scampers directly at me, goes around, stops a foot and a half behind my heel for a few seconds, and does not spray.”
Or “know someone who has saved someone using the Heimlich.”
Or “have a friend who has had charming close encounters with animals and is jealous that I’ve had one with a skunk.”
Or “play a gig aboard a moving riverboat.”
Or “anticipate fruitcake.”
Or “be beaten at Words With Friends by my daughter.”
Or “talk about newspapers with Books & Culture editor John Wilson while eating bedtime-snack cobbler a la mode in a Texas retreat center cafeteria.”
Or “take a running leap off a dock into the Frio River.”
Or “score a $350 round trip airfare to D.C. three days before departure.”
Or “retain a Frost poem memorized 30 years ago or more in order to recite it over Robert Frost’s grave.”
Or “be grateful for several outcomes of a car accident.”
Or “have dinner and after-dinner conversation and breakfast in the home of a friend I was out of touch with for more than 20 years but who is like a sister now.”
I could go on. But I started this simply to say that yesterday, this got crossed off the list: “See a man’s face light up with surprise, joy and gratitude when I gave him an unexpected slice of another woman’s homemade fruitcake.”
I suppose this could just as easily have been a Thanksgiving list, because I am thankful for all of these things. But it’s a bucket list list because, for me, “bucket list” is shorthand for “things I did not expect or imagine but am glad they happened and will remember them with appreciation and even glee and will tell about some of them over and over.” As if this year started as an empty galvanized bucket, and now I peer in, and — look at all these things that fell into it!
And it’s Christmas-remarkable because that feast of conversation at the Waffle House was quintessentially Christmas.
This is the first Christmas morning in memory (and probably beyond memory — say, the first Christmas morning since I had the motor skills to tear paper) that I have not had a gift to unwrap. And that is fine. Because I got the fruitcake early. And yesterday I got to see that fruitcake joy face and hug a friend I hadn’t seen in 16 1/2 months and keep his excellent yet common pencil. And last night that Christmas Eve service wrapped me in a Snuggie of calm and peace and hope. And when we started to sing “Let all mortal flesh keep silence,” I grinned, because that morning he had said anyone who sings that can’t mean it, so I kept silence and pondered those things in my heart as Mary did.
This morning I have the aromatic alarm clock of the coffeemaker, and a cat in my lap, and texts from my favorite nephew who’s old enough to drive, and a photo of my favorite nephew whose wingspan is bigger than his height, and a bucketload of friends across the country, and warm clean laundry headed for an open suitcase. And the loved ones who normally would have mailed gifts did not, because I’m going to go be with them. Soon.
So you, whoever you are, family, friend, or folk I haven’t met yet: a calm, peaceful, happy, content, well-fed, musical, merry, surprising, joyous, gracious and/or not too lonely Christmas to you.