These are the empty days of the year. Nothing new can happen, there’s nothing but retrospectives and looking ahead to next week and the terrible disasters that always seem to come around Christmas; whether it’s a tsunami or a missing airplane, all you can do is hope and pray that it won’t be you this time.
A few days before Christmas I took a trip to the fancy toy shop, the one that’s not Target, where they have expensive and whimsical and beautiful and silly things (and also kitchen gadgets and wine and a restaurant while you’re at it; if you live anywhere near here, you know where I’m talking about). I wanted a couple of things for the kids, but I ended up buying some things that were a bit more for me. They’re some of my nicest presents, actually.
I was looking for a colouring book for Mabel when I found this one, and it was so close to my heart that I had to buy it for myself. Carl Larsson was a Swedish artist and I have no idea where or why my dad picked up a set of prints of his paintings, but some time many years ago, he did. He framed some and put several of the poster-size ones on a particle-board backing and hung them up our stairs. I had one little girl in red at the foot of my bed for many years. (She’s still there, in fact.) Dad would even switch out the one in the frame according to the season, sometimes, so we could have a snowy Swedish scene or a summery one, or something in between.
I love them all, and they’re part of me; I associate them so strongly with my father that it’s almost as if he’d painted them himself. (We have my dad’s paintings around the house too, but his style is different. More boats and buildings, fewer people.)
So now I have a Carl Larsson colouring book and a tin of coloured pencils with fancy names to go with it. Mabel threw a strop the first day I took it out and told her it was mine and she couldn’t use it, but once the sheen had worn off for me I let her colour a little in the second picture and I think we’ve arrived at a truce. A little unreasonableness on both sides, probably. I never said I was more mature than a six year old.
I also picked up at the fancy toy shop a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle. I had the notion that this would be something we could start on the dining table and leave on the go for several days, to come back to and fit in a few pieces now and then. I even labelled it to all of us when I wrapped it and put it under the tree. But yesterday morning B went out for a long run, the kids were doing something else, and I sat down with all 500 pieces and a cup of tea. Three hours later, with some help from a returned husband and none at all from the children, it was done, and I felt the twin satisfaction and emptiness that comes from finishing a project and being left aimless once again.
Next year I’m buying a 1000-piece one.