Busy Gears

Busy Gears.

That was the hit gift of choice for my two year old son that Christmas.  A big plastic board with dozens of holes in them, in which you could place big spools and wheels and levers which all could work together to make a hugely technical, mechanical fun toy that was different each day because you could set up the wheels, spools and levers in a million different ways.

My mother had quit smoking.  Gone were the cigarettes from every photo.  Instead, she sucked on lollipops and chewed nicotine gum, having taken very seriously the doctor’s warning that she would indeed find herself diagnosed with cancer soon if she didn’t.  She felt very keenly that she had been given a chance that she didn’t expect and took it; she approached the Christmas holiday that year with gusto, decorating the tiny townhome we shared with every possible holiday knick knack we owned.  She even purchased new ones.

She asked my father to come over on Christmas morning, as he had the previous year.  My sister and her husband and baby daughter would come, and my brother too.  My father was going to make a big Christmas breakfast for all of us and bring over his gifts and we would all celebrate together, as a family.   Last year, my brother hadn’t been home.  But this year, he’d been discharged from the Navy, and was living in an apartment not far away.   So this year, we would all be together, for the first time in years.

It was a happy time, that Christmas.  My son was at that great age of toddlerdom when every toy seems like the most amazing thing ever created, and his obvious joy lifted every one up.  My sister’s daughter was smiling and sitting up and eager to try and keep up with her older cousin.  My father took over the kitchen and made Eggs Benedict for all of us.  There was a warmth and an ease between all of us that had been missing for much too long.  There were no more angry words between my parents.  My father held his tongue when he searched for the pans in the messy cabinets, and my mother held hers as my father too scrupulously scrubbed out the pans afterwards.   Nobody yelled about money, or who was doing what, or wasn’t doing something else.    We all instead enjoyed the company, the camaraderie, and the happy plans we’d all started making for the New Year.

So interesting that here we were, with all the same people, but arranged in such a different way.  Just like the busy gears that amused my son so much, when we found the right configuration that worked for our family, the wheels turned unimpeded, and we all worked together towards a happy holiday that year.

We were busy.  And we had finally gotten ourselves together and in gear.


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