When I was a kid, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas stretched, becoming vast and magical and seemingly endless. Each day my brother or I opened a paper window on the Advent calendar to reveal a tiny square of the hidden picture. We wrapped gifts and stared at the presents collecting under the tree, the anticipation almost too much to bear. The days were cold and dark but lit by twinkling lights and the flame of our Advent candles on the dining room table; when we lit the pink one, I knew we were getting close to Christmas.
In middle school Spanish class, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas were always the most fun. This was when we left gifts for our Secret Santas under the waist-high Christmas tree in the corner of the basement classroom. A popular gift to both give and receive was a one-pound peppermint stick, bought at the drugstore for eighty-nine cents. We’d suck on them during class then wrap the sticky end in plastic to save for later.
Senora Carper, our crazy, red-lipstick-wearing Spanish teacher taught us to sing Christmas songs in Spanish: “Noche de Paz,” “Cascabelles,” “Rodolfo, el Reno de la Nariz Roja” along with traditional Mexican carols. She then told us to “grab our microphones” (the giant peppermint sticks) and follow her. We trooped through the halls, serenading the rest of the school.
This was also the time when we made piñatas in Spanish class. Every day we added another layer of soggy newspaper to our individual pinatas. On the last day before Christmas break, we had a piñata party in the basement classroom. Each person brought their piñata, painted and decorated, to Senora Carper at the front of the room. She would then slam the piñata with all of her might against the edge of her desk. If it didn’t break, we received an A. I guess this was her way of taking attendance. If you had added a layer every day since Thanksgiving, your piñata wouldn’t break, and Senora Carper would hang it from the ceiling to display for the rest of the year.
It’s funny to look back on this as an adult, now that the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas seems to fly by. Only four weeks! That’s practically nothing. People (myself sometimes included) get stressed at the prospect of decorating and gift-buying in such a short amount of time.
But time is what you make of it, and thirty days can go fast or slow — it’s up to you. I want to slow things down and appreciate these dark, magical days. Open each one slowly and admire the picture that’s been revealed.
Although I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, I still enjoy having an Advent calendar because it reminds me to slow down and enjoy the holidays. Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation, which seems appropriate for where I am right now. I am waiting to hear back from agents. I am waiting to take the next step in my writing career, and in life. Instead of getting antsy and impatient, I want to to enjoy this time — this building of excitement, this time to prepare.
I’m trying to keep myself busy with new projects. It’s not easy to sit down at my computer each day when I have two finished manuscripts just gathering dust. But I’m trying to keep writing, keep adding a new layer each day. So when I receive a hard blow (like then one I received when I lost my agent), I will remain strong and unbreakable. And my work will be put on display.