The Church of Mark Morris & Noels Past

Yesterday morning I woke to a clean house. This may not be a big deal to some, but because I live and work and often cook at home, and because I was not raised to be Martha Stewart (or even Erma Bombeck), things can get fairly psychotic by Friday of every week. I used to loll around the apartment the whole weekend, too oppressed by the mess to address it. Only on Sunday night would I finally lumber to my feet and grab a sponge–and then just because I couldn’t face a new week with the detritus of the last one still holding me hostage.

There was nothing especially restful about the cycle.

Something shifted in me this year. I suppose I should say, “I shifted something in me” because overall I underwent an enormous growth spurt, and it is my observation that adults only experience growth when they pursue it rather than passively await it.

The upshot is that, no matter how tired I am on Fridays now, I straighten up my house before I go to bed. It’s the least I can do for Future Lisa, who deserves to exist unfettered by the squalor of Lisa Past. So now I clean the way you’d fold a beloved child’s clothing: with concentrated fondness and a profound patience. If I want an iteration of me to thrive in the soft, sweet order for which I clamored as a little girl, I’ve resolved that I must carve out that space.

Thus I woke yesterday without an onerous task looming, which meant I could leap into the day. I went running, I fetched kitty and greenmarket supplies, I baked. I met a friend for a two-course mid-day meal complete with pretty red wine, and then we toddled over to BAM to see the Mark Morris Dance Company perform The Hard Nut, which is his wry twist on The Nutcracker. Ironic pirouettes & snowcone sparkles & male & female rainbow ballerinas & totally unironic swoons: It was like a Busby Berkeley musical with better gender politics and Tchaikovsky. Of course I loved it.

We emerged into a dying sky; the sun descends mercilessly quickly these days, and with it any vestige of warmth. I smiled anyway, thinking about the cozy nest that awaited me, and smiled more at the way people in my Italian neighborhood go all the way with their Christmas decorations. Walking up the street to my apartment was like being the grand marshal of my very own parade, and I understood anew why the Christians swiped the pagan ritual of decorated trees (and winter solstice in general).

Trees were always the best part of Christmas when I was a kid. I tried hard to capture the magic of the holiday but found it elusive as the spirit of togetherness was complicated in my family. I was never unaware of the minefields lurking in my Jewish father’s tightened jaw, my mother’s unfocused eyes. But she decorated a gorgeous tree—birds and hand-made angels of every ethnicity and a swirl of pink and purple and red lights—and in the middle of the night I’d steal downstairs to lie beneath it, breathing in the heavenly scent of pine and hope, gazing up at a tiny sky of pastel stars.

I have given myself permission to bow out on Christmas celebrations this year but think I will get Gracie and me a tree. Nothing fancy, mind you: something more Charlie Brown than Rock Center. But why not make our cozy hearth even cozier? This whole time of year is about lighting darkness from within.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy