I begin with a white gift.
It is probably a can of soup, it's about that size, and I'm licking and sticking Santa faces and reindeer to cover the white tissue paper. The gift will go to church with us on the Sunday before Christmas, we'll lay it on the steps at the front, and where it goes from there I have no idea. This is 1974 and I've never heard of a food pantry. I never imagine some hungry stranger ripping through my stickers, cranking a can opener, flicking a spark to light the gas burner, heating the soup, mashing crackers into it, dropping the remains in the trash. This is 1974 and we've never heard of Blue Boxes either. As far as I know, the white gifts are travelling directly to God. Why He wants our canned soup is one of life's mysteries.
I'm licking the stickers in the kitchen, a kitchen contrived out of a bedroom in my grandfather's old house. Right now we live with him, but we cook upstairs and eat upstairs. Grandpa heats his canned stew alone and eats it with the elderly cat for company. I don't know if we all are happy to be living like this, four of us making do upstairs and Grandpa and the cat consuming their tinned food and livers downstairs. My limited understanding is that we'd be even less happy if we had to share. We being my mother, mostly. It may be the cupboards stuffed with cans, it may be the budgie cages. Most likely it's the livers.
So Advent is a cardboard calendar, a white gift, the season of colour-T.V. specials and school plays. My class is doing something about a kid who played Santa. My mother had to go out and buy me a new nightgown for a costume. Advent is a time my mother bakes a lot, most years. I'm third-grade oblivious to any difficulties she might have getting it done this year, in this small space. Maybe she'll give in and take her cookie cutters downstairs. It's uncertain.
A lot right now is uncertain.
Is that Advent?