Dickens was on to something. In his classic tale, “A Christmas Carol,” he writes about the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future visiting Ebenezer Scrooge, all in one night. Well, it seems to me that his story isn’t all that fanciful because those same three spirits haunt our house from December straight through till spring.
The Ghost of Christmas Past lives in the ornament box. I pull out spray-painted pieces of cardboard that are covered with gold pasta and clumps of glitter, and the Spirit whisks me back in time to the years when my children proudly presented them to me. The Spirit enchants photo ornaments of pudgy little baby faces, causing me to recognize those faces hiding behind my sons’ facial hair when I squint just so. She transports me as I rifle through the trimmings — suddenly I am with friends who moved across the country years ago; I am reliving birthdays and anniversaries and hearing choirs I once sung with.
The Ghost of Christmas Present is persistent. He enters jovially on Christmas Eve, explodes on Christmas Day with gilded glory, and then on Dec. 26, quietly takes off his boots and settles himself in for the rest of the winter. We find him in the house and yard, and in the very air we breathe − in the half-packed boxes of decorations and bows that fill the den for weeks, in the scent of Frasier fir candles ever burning, in bowls of red and green M&Ms scattered about, in the needlepoint stocking found mid-February on a knob of the living room door.
Christmas Present lingers by the potted poinsettias as they drop curled leaves onto my kitchen floor and near the gingerbread-man garden flag that flaps in the wind while daffodils push up the earth around it. He will remain until pastel jellybeans and porcelain bunnies appear in March or April — my tradition being to pack away the final remnants of Christmas on Good Friday.
Christmas Future lives in the pantry and in the freezer. He is sometimes known as the Spirit of Christmas Cookies Yet to Come. He lives in the Crisco that I have in the cabinet above the refrigerator − purchased anew each December for the past three years− that still may, one day, become biscotti. He is found in the containers of candied fruit that never made their way into batter, but that still hold the promise of Ina Garten’s fruitcake cookies.
Christmas Future also haunts the Christmas mailing list in my Outlook contacts file, which continues to be updated with changed addresses and will be an incredible time-saver next year once we spend three days trying to remember how to get the contacts to print out on the address labels. And he haunts the closet where 70 percent-off items rest, awaiting the gift-exchanges of Christmases in future years.
For three months, I live in a very crowded house. The Spirits jostle for position in my kitchen, den and basement, and then, being ethereal creatures, manage to occupy my head and my credit card bills, as well. I find myself, as Mr. Scrooge professed at the end of The Carol, to be living “in the Past, the Present and the Future.” Perhaps it is as the Spirits intended, but there is really nothing I can do about it.
I mean, what the Dickens?
Robin Conte is a writer and mother of four who lives in Dunwoody. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.