My least favorite holiday

I have to admit that I woke up this morning feeling a bit sorry for myself. Eating, cooking, family drama….Thanksgiving has the makings for a stress-filled day. One that I usually face with a considerable amount of trepidation.

I had worked myself up to a pretty good level of self-pity.  This year felt different. Two of our children (and a granddaughter and a son-in-law) would not be home. Two of our parents (my Mom and his Dad) are no longer here to share the holiday with us. My father has a different living situation this year and it has caused us quite a bit of family strife. I had even written a blog post yesterday to be posted this morning about the reasons that I dislike the holiday (hence the title, previously written).

Then I got a call from a friend’s husband letting me know that her mother had died last night. I haven’t been a very good friend lately – I have been too tied up in my own misery to pay much attention to anyone else’s distress. I only learned that her Mom was gravely ill a few nights ago because I had been so out of touch.  I didn’t know what to do to help, so I offered my prayers. It didn’t feel like enough, but it was all that I had.

The phone call made me think. I have been spending way too much time thinking about how I feel and not enough about everyone else in my life. So many people have it so much worse that I do at this moment. I felt selfish and petty. If I were TRULY thankful I should have realized how lucky I am to be able to celebrate the holiday at all. A lifetime of Thanksgivings had set me up with a certain expectation of what the day should bring, but I was looking at them with the wrong focus.

Tonight I took a look back at the photos that I have stored on my computer of past Thanksgivings that we have shared with our family up here on the Hill. Yes, there has been a good amount of stress and drama during our past 30+ years here, but there has also been much laughter and happiness. Looking in to the faces of the people in the pictures I saw what I should have been seeing all along.  We are, indeed, truly blessed to have what we have here in the place where my husband has spent over 50 Thanksgivings. A lot of living has happened here on the Hill.

I am thankful to have been a part of it.

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Stuck between the seasons

We have been in a bit of a December funk around here.  The upheaval of November has been followed by a sort of fugue state up here on the hill.

We are beginning to anticipate and prepare for Christmas, but with no real sense of organization or purpose.  A few lists have been made, and presents have been purchased, but the harvest gourds still sit in the basket in the entryway.  The Christmas wreath is hung just above them on the wall.  There are pumpkins by the doorway, and the small tree is lit. We are definitely stuck between Thanksgiving past and Christmas to come!

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It was my hope over the past weekend to remove the traces of fall and begin Advent (albeit a week late), but alas we are just stuck! I did throw away the Indian corn and Jim took down the stalks outside, but the mums need to be disposed of and the outdoor lights need to be hung before snowfall makes the job unpleasant.

I am not a Thanksgiving Christmas decorator.  I insist on a live tree, so I really don’t want it hanging around for 4 or 5 weeks, dropping needles and beginning to look tired and old. I am, however, an Episcopalian who does like to anticipate the coming of Christmas by celebrating Advent.  Why, then, do we always bury the Advent wreath under all of the other decorations, so that we are unprepared that first (or second, or third) Sunday?

This year I purchased new candles for the wreath.  I am sorry to say that they are still sitting, wrapped in tissue, on the buffet in the family room.  Why is it that when I start thinking about this…early in the fall…it seems like we have loads of time to prepare, but then December arrives and the clock starts spinning furiously, the days passing by in a whirl?

My schedule this week calls for me to be out of the house every evening, and work looms heavy as it does throughout the last month of the year every December.  Here’s hoping that my wonderful spouse will string the lights and bring down the boxes so that I can begin decking the halls around here!

I hope that by this weekend we will have finally “caught the Christmas spirit”, and it will begin to look a bit more like this around here.

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November

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November has been a hard month on the hill this year.  It is not my favorite month to begin with – I don’t like cold at all and I have to say that I HATE snow. **spoiler alert** (That is definitely not the last time you will hear that statement in the next few months) Thanksgiving has always been a difficult holiday for me because I am not really excited about spending all day cooking a meal that is eaten in 20 minutes and then takes 2 more hours to clean up after. On top of that, I usually have to work the next day, so it is, in fact, not a “holiday” AT ALL.

This year November was especially difficult because we lost our Patriarch.  I have mentioned my wonderful father-in-law in previous posts here and here. We are sad and a bit lost, but very thankful to have had him as our own. His passing did give us a chance to reconnect with family, reflect on all that he gave us, and to laugh and reminisce about the stories of the past and the fun that has been had here on the hill over the past SIX decades.

There was some good to be had in November, though, and that was an unplanned visit by our two daughters who currently reside in England and most especially our Granddaughter, Fee! (Everyone else refers to her by her given name of Sophia, but I prefer Fee – small and cute, with a little bit of snap just like she is).photo (18)

We had planned to have our first Thanksgiving with no children and I was filled with a mixture of sadness and relief. I was missing all of them and thinking about the chaos (and fun) that ensues when everyone is here, but somewhat relieved at the thought of a quiet and serene day.  That changed, of course, when they all decided to come home.  The past 10 days have been a whirlwind of activity (and laundry) around here again, but we truly loved (almost) every minute!

We also had all three of our daughters together for a couple of days and that was very nice.  Who knew when they were all here growing up how hard it would be to get them together under the same roof at the same time?  It is wonderful to see them interact now…three beautiful, successful women.  It is so interesting to observe all the ways that they have changed, yet stayed the same.  And who doesn’t like playing Super Mario at 10pm?

This picture was actually LAST year...why didn't we take any this year??
This picture was actually LAST year…why didn’t we take any this year??

November is also when I finally decided to start recording all of the things that swirl around in my head here in this space.  I feel like I have made a respectable enough start, even if my subjects this month were not what I had originally intended.  Please indulge me the somber tone of my first few posts.  I hope that in the weeks and months to come I will begin to share the lighter side of life on the hill as well as the tragedies.

We now have the expectation of the month of December and Christmas (along with this accountant’s ever dreaded year-end), and then the wonderful anticipation of our return to our island “home” in February.  I hope to share a little bit of why I love this place so much. If you know me at all you know that I visit Isla Mujeres every day in my head and am not afraid to speak of it every opportunity that arises.

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Thanks to those of you who have stopped by this place and encouraged me.  I think I will have a lot more to say now that the quiet has returned.

(Is it bad that I enjoy the peace a little bit?)

See you soon!

Dear Fee,

Today I am sad but excited.

I am excited because you are coming to visit Squirrel Hill for the second time. I am also sad because the reason that you are coming here is to pay tribute to your Great-Grandpa Ray. I have decided, however, that I am going to treat your visit home like a gift from him.  He has allowed us all to be together for your first Thanksgiving, and that is a special thing!

You are now eight months old, and even though Poppa and I have met you two other times – when you were just a month and again this past summer when you were 5 months old – this time will be different because you have developed such a personality and we can interact so much more.  You will be eating turkey and stuffing and crawling about the place.  We hope that our Skype visits will help you to recognize us.  It is hard to be a Gram when you live so far away. It will be nice to have the chance to spoil you a bit and perhaps even to give your Momma a break. We are very lucky to be having this visit, because we were not counting on seeing you until next summer.

Over your lifetime I am sure you will hear many things about your Great Grandpa Ray.  He was the Grandpa extraordinaire; always quick with a song or a tune, I can hear him singing la la la la la to your Momma and your Aunts when they were little.  He loved dogs and music and bubbles and children in general. He was sunshine personified, a happy and loving presence to all of his children and grandchildren.  I believe that he was made to be Grandpa and we were so fortunate to have him as our very own.   You met him last summer and although you will not remember it, meeting you was very special to him indeed.  His face lit up every time he saw your pictures!

I just want to let you know how eager I am to be able to squeeze and cuddle you for the next several days. I can’t wait for you to explore this place on the hill – your family home. Your Poppa crawled around these floors when he was your age and it is pretty neat that he can watch you do the same in the place where his family has been all these years.

Thank you to your Great Grandpa for the many gifts he has given to us. I only hope that I can be half the Grandparent that he was!

See you soon!

Love,

Gram xxooImage