Exchanged

They descended in clusters of twos and threes, or one at a time, entering the door with a gust of cold air, as I tried desperately to simultaneously greet them and distract / catch a very determined Sherman before he could make good his great escape. They came laden with boxes, or bags, or great long cookie sheets, loaded with goodies pulled only recently from the oven.

At first we all gathered in the kitchen, everyone chattering at once and somehow still managing to follow most of the conversation threads, as we filled our mugs with egg nog, with coffee or hot chocolate or tea. Sherman took breaks in between trying to escape to investigate thoroughly every purse, bag or box that entered the house. The occasional cry of ‘stop the cat!’ started to become a common refrain.

Eventually we migrated to the dining room, still chattering, and assembled ourselves in a motley assortment of regular chairs, folding chairs, and a few of the smaller chairs pulled in from the living room. The table was completely covered with various bins of cookies. People started to pass them around, and we all took one of each, which still ended up being a lot of cookies. Several people wondered, ruefully, why they had even bothered to eat dinner, as we all nibbled and tasted, but it didn’t stop a single one of us from finishing all the cookies on our plate.

We drew numbers and in order, examined the table of possibilities – which one to open; which one to steal from someone else instead? Rosie sat on the piano in order to look pitiful and possibly garner attention, or even crumbs, and Nutmeg lounged in the cat bed in the living room, pretending she wasn’t paying any attention to any of us anyway. Sherman, meanwhile, prowled underneath the table and pounced on discarded tissue paper, or dove into un-watched gift bags. The rest of the cats, unnerved by the volume and the numbers, hid downstairs, or else peered cautiously around corners and then retreated somewhere else.

Too soon, someone noticed the clock – how did it get to be so late? And then there was the great cookie distribution – a roomful of women, filling tiny paper sacks with cookies. Who didn’t get the gingerbread yet? Wait, I don’t have any of the lemon ones! Who wants more of the shortbread?

And then they left, in ones and twos, arms loaded with just as many cookies as they had arrived with, but this time of different varieties. We hugged our goodbyes, me with Sherman tucked under one arm to allow them to leave unaccompanied. The house descended into silence again, and the cats crept slowly out, noses twitching.

And now there are all sorts of cookies, where there once was only gingerbread men, bearing all sorts of flavors – cranberries, white chocolate macadamia nuts, lemon, anise, peanut butter and more. I sip another mug of homemade hot chocolate, reluctant yet to go to bed. There is time for one more cookie, I think. Just one more.

‘Tis the season for Holidailies.

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