This year, I spent Thanksgiving with the family I was born into. It was the first holiday together in 15 years. Since we live far apart from each other (in both geography and climate), the way-too-infrequent times we spend together tend to be during the summer months, and it is even more rare for all of us to be able to coordinate schedules at the same time. As a result, my sister and I have had to watch each other’s children grow from afar and support each other via phone rather than over coffee and shopping. Our kids get cousin time in small, intense doses.
Having all 12 of us under one roof for a few days was a wonderful way to start the holiday season. We all got to watch Mom get emotional when Santa ended the Macy’s parade (full disclosure, at home, I do too) and then finish dinner preparations and stuff ourselves while thinking about what we are thankful for. We got to enjoy several beautiful sunrises off the spacious deck of the rented house and did some exploring in a new area of the country.
As would be expected, the trip was not without tension. We met somewhere close to the middle, which meant a 12 (actually nearly 13) hour drive for us to get there, and a 15 hour (holiday traffic) drive home. We also had four women sharing a kitchen, which belonged to none of us, making dinner and many desserts (did I say it was in a strange kitchen). Exploring the town also had its challenges (getting 11 people from three households together is a little like herding cats). But overall, we enjoyed each other’s company and shared many laughs. It was good to spend time with those who gave me roots, and a special treat to have everyone together at once (I am not really sure when that last happened).
For me, the relaxed attitude has carried over. Unlike the masses I have already seen in stores, I am calm and happy. The world seems to be chaotic and noisy, but I feel insulated from it all somehow. I am excited about the season and look forward to traditions like our town’s Holiday Parade, but this year, something is different.
My normal routine is to start baking and freezing cookies the Monday after Thanksgiving (I have to hide the chocolate ones or I would have to make more) and complete the rather extensive decorating that first week in December. As of today, I don’t even have my cookie list made (I shake it up a bit each year, with just a couple regulars) and just starting getting the decorations out of the attic yesterday. But that is okay. What is important will get done. Last year I just couldn’t get in the spirit and let many things go. Perhaps that has affected how I am approaching this year. I am very much in the Christmas spirit, but not in the frenetic way of the past.
I have made my list and rough calendar (my way of coping with a hectic schedule) and am looking two weeks ahead to a clash of schedules. Without concern or panic. The logistics will work out. For many reasons, I am keeping the Christmas season simple. I have no idea what was on sale Black Friday, not even what is on sale today. I will be shopping, but quietly, mindfully. I want to keep things simple and remember what matters: family, time spent together, love and laughter.