On Monday this week I awoke — I won’t say like Ebenezer Scrooge — to the awareness that the year was rushing to an end. Two and a half weeks till a new year. . . . And so I hurriedly began getting ready for it.
The calendar imposes its will. I found myself trying to tie up every possible loose end, from the old white tablecloths and dinner napkins still to be put away after Thanksgiving, to the piles of papers on my desks at home and in the office, to the annual bills to be paid, to (not to mention) the gifts to be purchased and, in some cases, wrapped and carried to the post office before next week. Maybe if I let the more dreary chores go I will have time to get to the cheery ones.
Last weekend was the climax of what is for me a busy Choral Society season, culminating in an annual brunch and holiday concert. The Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church was packed, as usual, and I can attest to the joy of those of us who took part as performers. This year we played host to three instrumentalists, two French horn players and a violinist, here to augment the South Fork Chamber Orchestra, and the pleasure they take in music infused and elevated our conversations.
Now I am excited about going first to Nova Scotia to spend Christmas with my daughter and her family, then to hop down to Boston to herald the new year with my husband’s son and his. I am sorry that I will miss the company of my East Hampton and New York City grandchildren at Christmas, but I am lucky to be able to see two of them in dance and theater performances this weekend — one taking the role of Clara in a version of “The Nutracker” and another the fairy godmother in “Cinderella” — and to know we are all headed toward 2014 in good health.
On Jan. 14, it will be 34 years since Ev Rattray, the father of my children, died, having written that he would leave life with few regrets, one being not living long enough to know grandchildren. Every year I think of our last New Year’s Eve together, when I made him a martini and we tried to celebrate. “It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things,” Dickens wrote, “that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”
It wasn’t an easy season for me then, and it hasn’t been easy since, but I’ve discovered something about Christmas. I have until recently been among the rare number of singers I know who really do not enjoy carols. I would tell anyone who might happen to ask that this was because I grew up thinking that Christmas was for someone else, not for me.
Now, though, I’ve come around. Seeking “peace on earth and good will toward men,” which the carols do, is surely a universal sentiment, and I am looking forward to going caroling on the quiet streets of a small Nova Scotia fishing town on Christmas Eve. “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future,” Dickens had his Scrooge say. “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.”