Beyond Number


Here is a list of the things I wish I had thought to count over this fleeting Christmas Season, weeks full of family and feelings and the need to prepare meals and wrap packages and try to keep chaos at bay and keep people happy and, and, and…Anticipation, someone told me, is 9/10 of delight.  We build up this season, this holiday, and then, whoosh, it is finished, leaving only the obligations of the New Year and a large number of ungraded 9th grade English exams. Here’s to algorithms that solve for love and longing and to family and to moments that are too brief and math facts that defy memorization and to resolutions that inspire rather than punish and to moments of calm in a sea of drama that allow tired mother/writers to collect their thoughts. Here is a list of all I didn’t count:


The number of times I loaded and emptied the dishwasher and the number of dishes washed.

The number of pots of coffee made and drank—thank you, new Cuisinart Coffee Maker.

The number of clementines or “oh, my darlings” as Kerro calls them, peeled and eaten. They remind me of my father-in-law, a December treat we all enjoy.

The number of presents wrapped and the number of times I lost the end of the Scotch Tape until I bought two new dispensers at Target.

The number of emergency runs to Target or CVS or the supermarket.

The number of bags of trash filled with recycling—wrapping paper, cardboard, bottles, carry out containers that make me worry about our own family’s impact on the environment.

The number of twinkle lights Seth puts up—only because an alum told me her father keeps track.

The number of pine needles that dropped off our Douglas fir Christmas tree each day--a tree that suffered from male pattern baldness upon arriving in our living room.

The number of times someone shouted, “Hello, Mr. Christmas!” to the mechanism Seth has to turn on the lights on the tree.

The number of ornaments we did not put up because this was a “less is more” holiday, due to injuries and lack of time.

The number of times I caught the little cat drinking water out of the bowl in which paper white narcissus bulbs were nestled—and the number of times I refilled the water.

The number of times I was glad we hadn’t set up the crèche because of my mistrust of that same small cat.

The number of times my husband sighed or groaned in pain and my increasingly limited repertoire of helpful things to say in response to his agony.

The number of socks given and received by family members as gifts.

The number of times I thought, “I should write about that,” but forgot to write down what that was.

The number of cans of cat food dispensed each day to three hungry, yet finicky, cats.

The number of pieces of kibble that fell on the ground when I dropped the container of dry cat food, most of which were devoured by the grateful dogs.

The number of times anyone volunteered to take the three dogs for a walk—were there any?

The number of times I wished for a quiet moment to watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season Two.

The number of times I watched our son being patient and kind and helpful and was slightly awed by his capacity to switch between sulking teen and gracious human in a heartbeat.

The number of miles between Shaker Heights and Manhattan.

The extraordinary number of bizarre decorations at Stan Hywett Hall.

The amount of joy brought to us all by Cordelia’s gift of a Hypervolt. which we have all applied to every muscle we possess.

The number of times I wished I could talk to my mom on Christmas Day.

The number of times I admired another family’s holiday card and longed to be the kind of well-organized family that still produced one.

The number of times I rued the mess in our house and the impossibility of ever containing the piles.

The moments of swift conflagration between family members followed rapidly by moments of generosity and forgiveness.

The moments of wonder that passed without my pausing to breathe them in.

The number of times memories of other Christmases floated up.

The number of suitcases and bags, packed, unpacked, repacked and moved across several states.

The number of times a child told me to “Calm down,” which made me feel significantly less calm.

The number of moments I have already forgotten that I wish I had recorded.