Thursday, December 24, 2015

On my own December calendar

I just realized that when Christmas time comes around, I know I’m not part of a work place. This is how I know:

There isn’t an unreasonable amount of baked goods showing up at the common tables as people try to get it out of their house … and into their co-workers’ stomachs. (Same goes for post-Halloween) I don’t even let the stuff cross the threshold of my home.
Being Jewish in 24/7 operations like public transit, I usually took the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day shifts to free up others for their holiday. (A plus for a diverse work force!) It was actually easy duty: things just sort of tapered off. Office people started keeping irregular office hours, disappearing here and there. Phone calls and emails weren’t returned or got automatic replies: “Won’t be returning till January 4.” So unless there was some terrible snowstorm or traffic accident, things were pretty slow.

Even when I worked at FedEx, the flurry of the preceding days was finally over. We managers had hustled into uniforms and vans, picking up, delivering, and tracking packages upon packages. Everything was a hubbub … and then it stopped.
Everywhere else, the time before Christmas and between Christmas and New Year’s was slow motion time. I was in the office, but there were no meetings, no deadlines, no critical conferences. It was the time to pull out the stack of unfiled papers and file them, to create new file folders and labels, to clean off the desk. It was like readying myself for a crisp and clean New Year, like the spring cleaning of the winter.

All that changed during the Years of the Child. Then you had to have your plane reservations done a year in advance to make sure you got on school vacation flights. Every family in Alaska was aiming toward sun and warmth and we all wanted the same flights out and the same flights in. Finally, graduation came, and we were no longer constrained by the academic calendar. We could slide into January for vacations. Things got way cheaper and less hectic. I was back in the office, cleaning up files and providing office coverage during the holidays.

But it wasn’t till now, in my Third Third and not part of a consistent work place, that I realize the rhythm of my calendar has changed. I’m on my own calendar, not the work place holiday calendar, not the school vacation calendar, not the Christmas shopping calendar. Yes, there are a lot more parties and receptions – and there were all those pre-holiday crafts fairs – but that only changes my entertainment, not the schedule of my days.
Well, actually, I realize that’s not true: my volunteer teaching gigs are taking school breaks. I actually have a couple weeks without any class times scheduled. I do feel slower, more flexible, readier to say “sure, I can meet you for lunch.” I visit friends in their slowed-down work places.

So what’s different? In some ways, it’s like September. For a large part of my life, September meant school was starting. It’s when we bought new fall clothes and new school supplies. It’s when we were starting fresh, launching into something new, entering new doorways – or shepherding our kid through them. This feeling of big beginnings was way more than an arbitrary, middle-of-the-school-year New Year’s Day could arouse. It took years – years! – after the school calendar ended for me not to think of September as the new beginning. And then one day, September just became September.

And now, December 24 through January 1 is just … December 24 through January 1. What a relief.

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