• Just a week left, now, until the winter solstice, and less than twenty-four hours until kids start coming home from college. Mark and I have had a pretty terrific couple of months in our empty nest.

    Highlights of our time together: a day at The Big E (annual regional fair in Springfield, MA) to celebrate Rosh Hashanah; hearing brilliant banjo player Bela Fleck in concert at Berklee School of Music; making new friends at the Indian classical dance recital of the daughter of old friends; and babysitting our two favorite little boys. The humdrum has been terrific, too. We’ve watched TV together, talked over the newspapers at meals, gone out to the Cape for long walks with Amos. Was this what life was like twenty years ago, before we were parents? Maybe it’s even better now.

    I wondered what it would be like to celebrate a holiday without the kids at home. We all gathered for Thanksgiving, and that was a complete treat. But what would Mark and I do when we weren’t doing for the kids? When it’d be just us chickens?

    “What if we give each other a present every night when we light the candles for Chanukah?” I asked.

    Dead silence.

    “You mean, like a pack of gum,” Mark said.

    “Yep, like a pack of gum,” said I.

    “Wrapped?” Mark asked, looking as if he were about to swallow an arsenic capsule.

    “Wrapped!” said I.

    Five nights of candles lit, and no gum, yet. My favorite gift from Mark so far? Two Lotto scratch tickets. I won twenty bucks! Mark’s favorite gift from me? Probably the flannel footie pajamas I found. They actually fit his almost six-and-a-half-foot frame.

    A gift a night. Each night a gift, as we use this minor holiday to reclaim time, space, and each other.

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