17 December 2009

Getting Into "The Holiday Spirit"

Today it finally felt like Christmas is coming. I hadn't been "in the spirit," not because I'm unhappy; rather, I have just been too busy to notice that the holidays are imminent. When you move on the day after Thanksgiving and all of your time from then onward is taken up with unpacking, trips to the hardware store, grading students' papers and having conferences with those students, it's hard to notice a lot of other things.

There wasn't an "Aha!" moment or anything in particular that made it seem like the holiday season. I think it had to do with being home and working at my own pace. I went to bed in the wee hours of this morning and woke up late. Then, after reading papers from a few of my stragglers, I started to calculate grades and do some other paperwork.

Then, early this evening, I went to Hanna and Her Sisters to get my nails done. The last time I did that was about a week or so before my move. So it's been close to a month. The old polish was gone, and my nails, which are naturally dry, were breaking off. I'm not finished with arranging things in this apartment,and I haven't hung any pictures. And, once the semester is over, I'm going to do some work on that old Raleigh three-speed I picked up. So why did I get my nails done tonight?

Well, tomorrow is the holiday reception at the college. This semester, I attended a couple of lectures and a couple of more readings. And I read three poems--including one of my own--at the Department's open house last month. But other than that, I've been fairly invisible to most of the college, save for my own students and some of my colleagues. That has mainly to do with my recovery: Even though the tissues are looking really good (Dr. Jennifer says I'm healing better than anyone else she's seen.), I still don't have nearly the physical energy or stamina I had before the surgery. It will be a while before I get that back. Certainly, I have more of them thatn I did at the beginning of the semester. But, it seems that every time my energy level increases a bit, something comes along--like this move--to take it up, and then some.

Although I'm not much of a political animal, I'm rather looking forward to the reception. It'll be, I hope, a chance to see a few people I haven't had much opportunity to see this semester. Plus, it'll be a celebration of sorts for me: the end of my first semester in my "new" life.

Lately I've noticed something strange: I don't have the need I once had to talk about my transition with people I see. And, I'm not that interested in talking about the operation: It's done, it went well, the experiences surrounding it were wonderful and now I'm here. There really isn't a whole lot more to say, if I'm going to say anything. Yet, as I don't have the need to talk about it, I feel emotions--and intensities thereof--that I've never before experienced. I really can't think of anything else to which I could attribute those feelings: Sometimes I'm positively giddy for no other apparent reason. As the semester has ended, instead of saying "I enjoyed your class," students are saying things like, "I felt such joy in your class," and "You really know how to talk to us!"

But, once again, I digress. The reception at the college is being held; it's the first holiday-specific event in which I'm participating. It was the reason I was getting my nails done, and looking forward to it made the holiday seem, for the first time, imminent. Plus, tonight was what I like to call "crystal cold." The air seemed to intensify, if not deepen, the hues of the sunset and to reflect, even more clearly than other kinds of air, the stars against the nighttime sky. The strings of lights wrapped around signposts and stretched across windows seemed brighter and more colorful, and the cold, crisp air also seemed to highlight people's faces: even the ones who were getting off the train after a day's work seemed more vivid, if not more florid, than at other times.

Finally, being in Hannah and Her Sister's nail salon, I remembered whence I've come. I've been going to that salon for a little more than two years, and now that I've had my operation and gone through other stages of my transition (I'd love to know how Hannah explained any of it to the nail finishers who don't speak, or speak very little, English!), being there, walking that stretch of Broadway, getting my supper, or just doing almost anything, seems normal even though (or because?) they're all part of this new chapter in my life.

Really, you can't get a better gift than that. And you can't give anything better than joy to another person. If that's not what "the holiday spirit" is about, I don't know what is.