Saturday, November 28, 2009
One Night at Christmastime
I hope that days like today will be the backbone of what Pie recalls as a warm and happy childhood, hope that in her memories I'll be a beloved figure who was a source of kindness and magic.
She's asleep on the couch right now, dozing in the dim light of our Christmas decorations after a long and active day.
My parents were on a trip today with Grand Pa Hick Family and his girlfriend to Largest City, leaving Beautiful Cousin and I to tend for Pie. She had a soccer practice this morning at eleven-thirty that my cousin took her to (I wasn't even close to being out of bed), and then later in the afternoon she, Thomas, and I headed to the Western City Mall to see New Moon in the theater they have there.
She enjoyed the movie and later took great delight in imitating Bella's gasping dialogue while Beautiful Cousin and I laughed at the accuracy of her mimicking.
After the movie, I took my brother and sister to McDonald's, where Pie whispered that she wanted "a boy Happy Meal."
She's a tough little girl.
We arrived back at our house after four hours out and Thomas headed next door to attend the neighbors' party, leaving my sister and I to occupy ourselves on a Saturday night while Beautiful Cousin studied downstairs.
Pie picked up a balloon that's been sitting around the house for the last few days and decided that we should play at keeping the sphere from touching the ground, otherwise "the vampires will eat us."
Before long the latex thing was careening off of walls, bouncing from lamps and doorknobs while the two of us slid across the house attempting to bat it into the air from the most improbable of angles.
Pie had the inspired idea that we should kick the ball every time it came to us, and, like the uninhibited genius I am, I agreed to abide by this rule while running across the hardwood kitchen floor in my socks.
Only minutes into this game Pie took a spectacular fall, something I pointed and laughed at before helping her up.
Just moments later I repeated the move with much more panache. I aimed a kick at the balloon that sent my right foot hurling into the air, my left foot flying out from under me, and my writhing body catapulting for the floor, where I landed squarely on my rear end with a terrific thump.
"Ow!" I cried out. "My butt!"
I jumped up and down, clutching my injured rear end while Pie fell over herself laughing.
"Oh, and it's only one side!" I complained.
I quickly got entirely too into this, indulging at least as much as my first-grade sister.
Whenever a lamp wobbled, or a picture teetered dangerously from its rung on the wall after a collision with the balloon, my sister and I would cover our mouths, stare at each other with wide eyes, and laugh in mischievous collusion.
After one paticularly loud bang that Beautiful Cousin no doubt attributed to the small child in the house and not the twenty-one-year-old who shouldn't have been conducting himself like such an idiot, the college freshman called up the stairs, "KNOCK IT OFF!"
We stopped and shared a conspiratorial glance before I reluctantly surrendered to responsibility and said, "Okay, Pie, let's go play something else."
We headed for the sitting room and lay down beneath the artificial Christmas tree, staring up into the plastic and metal interior through which the multicolored lights with which it was strung shone muted.
"I spy something green," Pie challenged.
I thought about it a minute.
"The Christmas tree?" I asked.
"Yes!" she exclaimed, perhaps amazed at my powers of detection.
She seemed to sense after a few minutes that the possibilities for I Spy were of a limited nature when played from under our tree, so we emerged and spent the next half hour picking out the most obscure Christmas ornaments we could think of for each other to find.
This diversion concluded, we returned to the tent of manmade pine needles for a game of Would You Rather.
"Would you rather eat dog poop or dog pee?" my sister asked.
"Dog poop," I answered. "Would you rather eat brussell sprouts or broccoli?"
"Ew, broccoli," she returned. "Would you rather eat poop or blood?"
"Okay. Would you rather live in spikes, or poop?"
"What is it with you and poop?"
We attempted a board game that thoroughly tired her out, and now she's gone to the world.
As I sat stroking her soft cheek, brushing the hair from her smooth forehead, a sudden and profound sadness came over me. I am home now, in the bosom of my adolescence, living in effect the same life in the same house that I've been living since I was seventeen. I am Pie's older brother, Thomas's companion, Powell's friend, David and Marie's son.
Sitting there, embracing my sister, I couldn't help but wonder how many quiet nights like this we'd have before this was no longer our mutual home. How long would it be until I left this place, until I became an entity of my own, until my position was not that of subordinate to my parents and equal to my brothers and sister, but independent unit? How many more cold evenings of contentment will pass until I'm of this family but no longer in it?
I'm not ready. I just want to go up to whoever is operating the control panel of my life, shake him by the shoulders, and scream that in his face.
"I'm not ready!" I'd cry, manhandling him until he was afraid. "Do you understand? It's too soon! I don't want to leave! I'm happy here!"
I feel as if I'm plunging towards a world that I don't want, can't understand, and am unprepared for, a world in which I'll be torn from her arms and from everything I love.
Even when locked securely within the warmth and safety of my cushioned home, I fear the winter winds that blow outside.