In the in-between time, the decorations stay up but the boxes and bags get carried away. Dinners are mostly leftovers, or in the case of a family with birthdays on the 25th and 26th, dinner out at the restaurant of one's choosing.
Duncan, who turned 13 on Christmas day, chose Flaherty's Irish Pub. He loves their fish and chips. The server spilled tartar sauce on Laurel's boots and gave us a free dessert. We brought our leftovers home to eat the next day, again avoiding having to cook an actual meal.
Dinner on another in-between day was funnel cakes and kettle corn at Dollywood. It was a chilly, sunny day, and thousands of other people thought it was the right day to get the last out of their season passes, too. I sat on benches and re-read The Book Thief while Randy and the kids waited in lines. It is strange to be in Nazi Germany one minute and then to look up and watch passersby who are so happy they bounce and swing. I did ride the carousel and the bumper cars, and I thought about how much nicer it is to go to Dollywood with teenagers instead of toddlers.
We anchor ourselves, Randy and I, on these in-between days.
"Today," he announces, "is December 27, 2013."These days feel like luxury. We linger over breakfast together, reading random bits of internet news to each other. We put whipped cream in our coffee and justify having apple or pumpkin pie for breakfast.
"Is it Friday?" I ask.
"It is," he assures me. "I took the trash out this morning."
We revel in having our oldest home in this in-between time, home not just from college but from a semester in Italy. He mostly hangs out with his friends but they check in a few times each day, playing a few video games with Duncan or coercing Laurel into a round of Just Dance. And they'll come for supper if it's something other than leftovers.
They came last night for fettucine alfredo and artichokes. We won these nifty butter warmers in a white elephant exchange. Someone's junk, our treasure.
In the in-between time I grow sluggish. Showering and putting on real clothes seems superfluous. What is there to do, really, but read and watch the birds at their new feeder? In between spells of utter laziness, I iron a few shirts, put away wrapping paper, water the crinkling poinsettias. I think about how this year, for the first time in 20 years, there are no new toys to pick up, no Legos to step upon at night. We are a house filled with teenagers and young adults. We are in between ourselves.
After a few days of in between, to be honest, I am ready for what's next. I love the anticipation of company, of good conversation and meals cooked together. I am ready to find a cute outfit and put on boots, wipe down the counters and vacuum the floors. Family and friends will be here tomorrow and for the rest of this week, and I'm ready. In less than a week we'll be hauling the tree to the curb and packing up ornaments; I'll be forcing myself into lesson-plan mode and thinking about what to cook for supper. But I'll be ready.
This in-between time is good for the soul, good for anchoring oneself and reveling in the beauty of simplicity, the luxury of unconstructed days. In between.