The Magic Jug of Milk
I had a magic jug of milk. Yes, you read that right. Magic. Milk. Those two words aren’t usually found in the same sentence, but for this post, they surely are!
Ever heard the story about the Widow and the Oil? (It’s a Bible story from the Old Testament.) In the interest of brevity, I’ll make a short story… well, shorter. A woman in need ended up with a jar of olive oil which never ran dry.
Which brings me back to my own jar. Except, it’s a jug. Plastic. One gallon. Nothing special about it. Bought at my favorite grocery. Full of homogenized Vitamin D whole milk. Nothing to distinguish it from any other milk in the aisle other than the brand and the fact it was organic. But, even so, there were dozens of others that were exactly like mine— same brand, same organic-ness.
My magic jug of milk was bought a week before Christmas. Which brings me to a momentary detour, just to get some context in place.
2021 has been filled with blessings. LOTS of blessings. Our eldest daughter got married in April. Our younger son graduated from college in May. Our baby went to summer camp for the first time in June. My husband and I celebrated a milestone anniversary in September. My mom celebrated a milestone birthday— complete with fire trucks! — in early December. Our middle daughter graduated from college in mid-December. Add in the holidays— especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. Then, add in our oldest son getting married on New Year’s Day, 2022. As I said, LOTS of blessings.
With all of those Blessings came… Busy-ness. And, Busy-ness tends to bring along her good friend… Stress. And when Busy-ness and Stress get together, Tired almost always joins the party. By the time we’d returned home after the ringing of the wedding bells on New Year’s Day, Tired had had a nervous breakdown and mutated into Utter Exhaustion. And, I— I was Grumpy.
To be brutally honest, the holidays weren’t much fun this year— and that kills me because I love Christmas. The music, decorations, baking. Family and friends. For me, Christmas = Magic. But this year, it was hard to hold onto the sacred reason for the holiday. There wasn’t time to slow down.
Wait. I forgot to mention— I also work at a toy store. One which is becoming increasingly popular not only in our town, but throughout the state— and into other states. And this year, at Christmastime, we were short-handed. So, seriously, no time to slow down. No time to enjoy the magic— if I could have even found it.
Context established. Back to the tale…
We returned home from the (second) wedding on January 3rd. Unpacked and… collapsed. The next morning, I opened the refrigerator and found that the only jug of milk— bought a week before Christmas— had expired. Since it was almost a full gallon, I went ahead and unscrewed the cap, prepared to gag when I sniffed and... it was still good. Smelled sweet. A very tentative taste— it really was okay! I poured a glass for my baby girl; she drank it with her breakfast and headed out to meet the bus. She had no idea and I didn’t tell her, although I did half-expect a call from the school nurse.
The milk was still good the next day. And, the next. My daughter— who had previously been drinking several glasses a day— now only seemed to want one— in the mornings. It began to seem like a race against time— which morning would it be that I sniffed and gagged?
In the meantime, inspired, perhaps, by the expiration date that hadn’t made a difference, I decided to celebrate a post-Christmas Christmas. The decorations stayed up. Each morning— before sniffing the milk— I turned on the Christmas lights in the house— and only the Christmas lights. The tree. The fireplace mantle where I set up my miniature Dickens village. The pinecone lights that drape the entry to the dining room. I’d make a cup of tea, turn the Christmas music on low and sit in my chair, rocking, breathing. Reclaiming the Christmas spirit.
That magic jug of milk finally poured out its last drop on January 17th. Still sweet. And the magic of that jug of milk somehow seems tied to the renewed magic of my Christmas season. The miracle of a jar of oil, the magic milk— could they be linked, as well? Maybe to remind me—us!— that Christmas doesn’t have to end on a certain date— its meaning can continue flowing long after it should be finished.
I wrote this on the 22nd of January. A week later, I finally undecorated the tree. It was time— and I had the time. I unplugged the outside lights and began packing away the other decorations. There are still a few things to put away, but I’ll save the music for last. The Christmas cds and records will be put away… eventually... though that won’t really mean anything. I’ve always sung Christmas songs now and then throughout the year— but this year? This year I’ll be thinking of my magic jug of milk. Knowing that some dates don’t really mean anything— that some things simply won’t be limited by a mark on the calendar. The oil. The milk. The Christmas spirit. Things that need to be poured out and enjoyed. Shared. Appreciated.
Maybe it was a coincidence, but the expiration date on my magic jug of milk? December 24th. Christmas Eve. A marvelous, magical night.