Monday, December 29, 2014

Home for the Holidays

Reflections on the Holiday Season

Decorating the Christmas tree brings back so many memories of years gone by.
My festive Spanish bell purchased in Mexico so many years ago triggers memories of times with dear people whom were so much a part of my life in the 80's.
Humming,
Feliz Navidad,
I remember Christmas season trips to New Mexico.
I think of all the wonderful Spanish speaking students whom I taught over the years.
I think of the rich cultural traditions that others have during this time of year.


Some years a few new decorations are added to tree.
This year, dried wheat bunches from the Thanksgiving flower arrangement were gathered together and tied with Christmas ribbon to create a new decoration.
It will be a reminder of the wonderful Thanksgiving we shared with my son and his wife and son
and with 
my daughter and her son and daughter earlier this year.

My tree always is dotted with bells, lots of bells.
Somehow, many years ago, I started collecting so many bells that I decided that my Christmas tree would have a bell theme.
And so, to this day, bells hang on my tree.
The bells of Christmas.
Each bell has a story behind it.  
Each bell carries a special memory.


I love the bells of Christmas.
The angels.
The lambs.
The red berries.
The pine cones.
The red and silver balls.
The lights.
I love the beauty of Christmas.

Christmas decorations remain on display at my house until New Year's Day.
It seems we are so busy before Christmas that I rarely have time to sit and reflect about the true meaning of Christmas until it is all over.


Julie's tree,
the tree that holds only her special ornaments,
gives me great comfort,
but it also sometimes sends fresh shock waves through my mind
when I see her things in my house as a reminder that she is not here to put them up in her own place.


I'm never quite prepared for
 the scent of Julie
 that overpowers my emotions when I open the hat box that contains her Christmas ornaments. 
Yes, the tissue paper that she placed around each ornament still smells like her. 
It got to me again this year. 
I miss you, Jules.
 I love you. 
XO

***********

The holidays really began for me when my high school girlfriends all gathered for our holiday party on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
(That's me, surrounded by my girlfriends, 
smiling broadly,  dressed in orange, and sitting midway on the stairs.)


Oh how I love these girls!
As a group, and individually, my life is much richer 
because I met these awesome ladies over fifty years ago.
We giggle like school girls while we open our gag gift exchange.
You don't even want to know what we give each other!
We laugh so hard we can barely breathe throughout the day when we have our get togethers.
This year, Dove could not be with us, so she sent a bottle of real maple syrup from Vermont, where she lives, for each one of us.


We cry and give thanks as
we share our list of gratitudes for the year with each other.
Each of us feels loved and blessed because
we belong to something that is rare and precious:
a sisterhood of
of girlfriends
 with deep roots that began in the golden days of youth
 and has lasted until our hair has turned to silver.
We are there for each other no matter what.
As we get older, the "no matter whats" become harder to bear,
but we don't bear our trials alone.
Our friend with Alzheimer's called during our lunch.
Her husband placed the call so we could talk to her.
Three of the girls drove to Kansas this summer to bring her love and gifts from the group and to take her out for the day.
That's what I'm talking about.
These girls are true, forever friends.

**********

Soon, the next holiday was upon us.
Thanksgiving was so special this year.
Ryan and Sheridan brought oldest grandson with them as they flew in for a short visit for 
Thanksgiving.


We have plenty of chairs, but these kids like togetherness.

Firstborn grandson Parker is in his first year of college.
What a treat it was to have him with us during his short break!


Daughter Amy and her children were here with us too.
The siblings took over the kitchen for mom.
That is a good thing since I can't seem to put it all together like I used to do.
After a run through the neighborhood, they whipped up dinner.
(We also had a bit a lot of help from Whole Foods.)


I was one blessed and happy mom on Thanksgiving Day.
Nothing makes me happier than being surrounded by my children and grandchildren.
Nothing.


The trip to my house was a quick one for the newlyweds.
I'm grateful they were able to come at all.
The day after Thanksgiving was Black Friday.
The next day was Small Business Saturday.
Sheridan, as a small business owner, took time to be with us, her family,
 before she was off for the Christmas rush at Hip and Humble in Salt Lake City.


*************
The day after Thanksgiving, Jim was also off to work at the Apple Store.
With me also working, this was a crazy, busy Christmas season for us.

Somehow, we managed to decorate the house,
shop for presents,
write and mail a Christmas letter,
and attend other holiday get togethers with friends and family.

My new best friends became the folks that own the nearby
PostalAnnex in the University Center in Colorado Springs.
I literally dropped gifts on the counter and asked, "Can you wrap and mail these for me?"
They did just that!
I didn't have to go to the post office or FedEx or UPS one time during the Christmas season.
Check them out for all your mailing needs.

A special event each year is hosted by my cousin and her husband:  The Cousin Christmas Party.
Thanks, Diana and Steve for again being such gracious hosts.
We shared great food and deep belly laughs throughout the evening.


*********
On Christmas Eve, we celebrated with Jim's daughters, sons-in-law, and grandchildren at daughter Thia's new home.
What a fun time we all had.


Christmas Day was a very quiet day for the two of us.
Jim said, "Don't get me anything for Christmas.  I don't need a thing."
I thought of a few things he needed.
First,
he needed new gloves that would keep his hands warm while he walks the dog
and navigates around his iPhone.
He needed technology friendly gloves.
"You can text while wearing these gloves," I said.
"No kidding?" he replied.
Then he happily tried them out and was quite excited about the new gloves.

He also needed another winter hat, one that he could wear to work.
He loved his new brown wool cap.


I also surprised him with new "tennis shoes" that he likes to wear to work.

Jim finds great comfort in honoring and remembering his heritage when we light the menorah.
On Christmas morning, my dear, dear Jewish friend in California sent me greetings via a text.
She then sent me a photo of her daughter and her husband, home for the holidays, seated in front of a lighted menorah.
I sent her this photo of Jim.



Jim spoiled me to death with many wonderful gifts.
He didn't listen to me either when I told him that I needed nothing for Christmas.

Cooking a large Christmas dinner has never been high on my list of things to do on Christmas.
Instead, I've traditionally made Christmas brunch.
This year, just the two of us enjoyed a brunch of chili relleno casserole, hash browns, a spinach salad, a fruit salad, and stollen. (We forgot we had also planned to have bacon.)
As we leisurely enjoyed our morning and early afternoon, I realized that we had not spent an entire day together without any obligations or work since mid-September.

Christmas Day the air was cool and crisp, but the sky was a brilliant blue.
We decided to walk in the Garden of the Gods.
We'd not been there in months.
Boston could hardly contain himself with joyful anticipation as we approached one of his favorite walking places.
We thought it would be the perfect day to enjoy the great outdoors now that all the summer tourists have gone home.
We were wrong.
Throngs of people had the same idea we did.
I don't know when I've seen this beautiful place so crowded.

Despite the crowds,
and Boston's over-enthusiastic reaction of being in a favorite place filled with lots of great smells,
 and lots of other people,
we enjoyed a crisp Christmas afternoon walk.


**********
Home for the holidays is an ideal I have carried in my head for a long time.
I envisioned that this meant all of our offspring would gather around the table with us to eat a Christmas meal, or open presents around the tree.

Divorce,
death,
and
distance,
the three D's of Christmas,
 have robbed me of much happiness at Christmas over the years.

This year,
acceptance of those things over which I have no control
allowed me to
celebrate,
with peace and joy,
a quiet
Christmas at home.









19 comments:

Margaret Adamson said...

Hi. I very much enjoyed reading this interesting post. I think after all the friends and family gatherings, you two. Deserved a lovely quiet Christmas together. My nursing friends from nearly 54 years ago still meet, nowadays it is 3 times a year. It is wonderful to have their friendship. May I wish you and your hubby a very Happy New Year.

Olga Hebert said...

Divorce, death and distance--that really is the three pronged threat to the idealized vision of Christmas I (and many others, I suspect) carry in my head. I made i conscious effort this year to let that idealized head version go.

Tom Sightings said...

Love your trees; love your memories. And what a wonderful family!

Elizabeth Cutter said...

I loved your Thanksgiving notation that "Nothing makes me happier than being surrounded by my children and grandchildren. Nothing." It's true! So thankful that you had that wonderful season.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I was so happy to read your last few lines about acceptance and finding new ways to enjoy that particular day. Meanwhile your Thanksgiving was amazing to me--so many groups, each of them so meaningful. I'm sure some of that camaraderie helped sustain you through the Christmas season.

A Quiet Corner said...

Bittersweet...holidays...the past, the present...all emotions feeding our existence...:)JP

dkzody said...

Your high school girl friends' picture reminded me of the book, The Girls from Ames. Did you ever read it?

We too spent a quiet day at home for Christmas. Loved that we didn't have to travel in the car this year. No gifts here, though, as we really don't need anything except maybe a lovely trip somewhere to celebrate our upcoming anniversary. We're saving our pennies for that. We won't be able to take much time, what with our obligations, but it will be our major gift to one another.

Linda Reeder said...

I think I finally turned the corner on that vision this year. Tom and I have enjoyed most of our Christmas gatherings, but we have also enjoyed just being at home with the two of us. I will always love Christmas beauty, but traditions change, and that will be OK new.
This was such a beautiful post, Sally. It left me with a sense of peace.

Jean said...

You have had a busy and loving holiday season. Great photo of you with your high school girlfriends! Wonderful family photos, too. I'm like you: I don't particularly relish the thought of preparing a huge Christmas dinner! It's simply too much work when I'd rather enjoy socializing in the living room. Best wishes for 2015!

DJan said...

We had a very quiet Christmas, in contrast to all your comings and goings, and full houses! It looks like you have had a wonderful holiday season, Sally, and I sincerely hope that you have a wonderful 2015! :-)

Jeanie said...

Your post is just beautiful, Sally. I loved every photo, every story. And oh, your tree with those bells! Beautiful in every way.

And Julie's tree -- I'm sure that was difficult -- and yet bringing it there brings a bit of her physically into the house at the holiday -- and that's perfect.

I send you all good wishes for a Happy New Year -- and may the merriment continue!

Susan said...

What a super post. Truly, times spent with family and friends are what makes Christmas so special.

We were in Denver this year and saw the glass exhibit at the Botanical Gardens. I did several posts on our trip! It was spectacular.

Hope 2015 will be terrific for you. Susan

Betsy Adams said...

What a wonderful recap of your year, Sally.. I enjoyed reading it --and seeing your great photos. Love your "Bell" tree... NEAT!

Happy New Year to you and yours... I hope that 2015 will bring you (and us) lots of joy, happiness and GOOD HEALTH....

Hugs,
Betsy

Rose said...

Wonderful to see all the happy times you shared over the holidays, Sally. Spending time with family is the best part of this time, even if it isn't on Christmas Day itself. We were also alone on Christmas Day, having celebrated the night before with our children and grandchildren. But I've come to enjoy having that peaceful day at home after the busy holiday rush--and yes, I leave my tree up at least till New Year's, too, for just the same reason. A belated Merry Christmas to you and wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!

Maggie May said...

Loved this post.
Loved your Christmas tree and thought it was such a lovely idea to put up Julie's tree as well, with her things on.

Loved the way your family looked so happy in the photos.
What a beautiful bunch of girls.
Loved the photo of you with the dog.

Happy New Year...... may it be full of good things.
Maggie x

Larri said...

I was thinking about you today & popped over to see what was going on in your world. I'm so happy to see you had a lovely season with your cherished family and friends. ((HUGS)) to you & all the best to you & yours in the new year! ツ

troutbirder said...

A wonderful conclusion to a warm post, Sally. I'm not there yet as this season brought us the loss of our oldest son to bipolar. Still acceptance and peace is there now but the joy is muted...

Kay said...

I'm so sorry for the pain you had to cope with this Christmas. I know Julie will always be there in your heart. However, what an incredibly beautiful family you have, Sally. And what an amazing, loving, extraordinary group of high school friends you have. They are such a fabulous support group.

I'd like to wish you and yours a very peaceful, healthy and happy new year.

Barb said...

Dear Sally, By letting go of the ideal you found joy in the many blessings you have. I loved reading about your busy holiday schedule that included dear friends and family. Can't believe I missed all these posts, but I think I was MIA during part of this time. I know you must be worried about Jon's surgery. I'll send special thoughts your way and hope for his successful surgery and healing on Feb 6.