So much is said about the holidays, the holiday season and all the excitement that goes with the last days before the New Year. But rarely mentioned is the aftershock. What follows the time of celebration? Hopefully it is a distinctive time of remembrance, and getting on with life.
For my family – large, spread out and unruly as they are – it’s a time of returning to everyday life, for some a substantial trip, and for others the clean up/put away that comes with having a ton of company comprising the very old as well as the very young. For me personally, it’s a letdown.
For what seems like an instant, I have my six kids poking around under the tree and bringing home surprises, or the young ones (and sometimes the not-so-young) coming out of the kitchen with a small smear around the lips that indicates a stolen treat.
For very practical reasons, we now celebrate Christmas on the weekend between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Children come from all over the Eastern part of the country. Since each family has two sets of parents to share Christmas, we happily take what we can get – and that constitutes the weekend after Christmas and before New Year’s.
Although these gatherings used to take place in my home, growth dictated that we move to an adjoining city, where two of our children can share the hosting experience. Starting on Friday night, people arrive by plane, train and automobile. They need to be greeted and fed. They come laden with boxes and bags and trays of cookies and libation worthy of the season.
The children (of all ages) adjourn to the basement, where all sorts of indoor sports begin – pool, chess, table tennis. Others assemble in the kitchen to prepare dinner, and add their own specialty to the meals, treats and snacks.
All weekend long, food is comprised of the goodies we used to have when my six were youngsters, and newbies that have been created or discovered since the children flew the nest and started their own traditions.
Abundance reminds us how fortunate we are and have been all of these years and, with joy, thanksgiving is palpable.
Time to talk, to visit and to inquire is an important element in this season of celebration. What piece of news has been saved for this moment, to share with those nearest and dearest? Job changes, expectancy, hopes, dreams and sometimes loss.
The first year after my husband died had its sad moments. But as time passes, we have learned to say, “Dad would love this,” and enjoy his memory.
The days pass uncounted, until the first crew finds itself packing up presents and dirty clothes. Leftovers turn into travel sandwiches. Goodbyes mix joy, longing and sadness with the tension brought about by the thought of travel on snowy roads.
As goodbyes are said, tears and laughter mix with promises of phone calls and letters to be sent. Cars drive off, planes are caught. At home, beds are stripped, papers cleared and mail searched for bills to be paid. And the slow but certain realization that it’s over comes about.
Each year seems to add something to our collection of customs and memories. Through all of the changes comes the certainty that life is good and meant to be shared.