Oh, the weather outside is frightful, Hallmark films are so delightful, if you want to sing this song, come along, hum along, sing along. As for me, I love this season and always have, however…We’ll get to that.
Funny, but I don’t recall the famous drawing by Norman Rockwell of the family gathered around the Thanksgiving table having anyone with a wound, a missing limb, a cane or any other malformed function. His Christmas pictures as well always involved the ideal, the classic and the totally idyllic images of American culture. For most of us, preparing to go into the holiday, we are riddled with more imperfections than a plucked turkey with goose bumps out in the cold. Can a turkey have goose bumps? Guess that’s a question for another time.
I remember as a youngster being delighted with making a turkey out of a potato at school by placing paper feathers or chicken feathers on his potato tush and looking forward to all that the holidays implied. The food was so delicious and the aromas that filled the house were so enticing and leftovers, well let’s say, they remain my favorite. I love the tartness of homemade cranberry sauce laced with fresh orange peel and a touch of candied ginger. I have a passion for cornbread stuffing rich with the drippings of a fat turkey. You don’t worry about cholesterol on Thanksgiving Day; or at least you shouldn’t have to.
Thanksgiving is and should be a time of reflection and gratefulness for the many abundant gifts most of us have in America. Sometimes that gets lost in the fervor of all the work for many family members and the possible divisions in some families. It also signals the fact that the big holiday is on the way as Christmas is not far behind, it’s sleigh bells jingling on the heels of turkey day. Some of us welcome the sudden onset of Christmas and some of us do not.
I confess I am one who has always loved decorating early and massively for Christmas. It’s a season of such joy, color and magic, I just plain love it. We have ornaments and decorations which are very old, all connected to some wonderful memory and some, given to us or made by some beloved friend or relative. Yes, I am a Christian and also believe it to be a sacred celebration for those of us who believe in the Christ child and also believe it can be a magically wonderful time when beautiful and mystical things, attitudes and outlooks can prevail. It is a birthday celebration of the highest caliber, designation and often, expense.
A lesson I learned early as a young mother was it doesn’t take a lot of money to have a blessed and memorable holiday season but it does take a lot of work. That’s why I learned over the years to plan ahead, cook ahead of time, and shop early while there are still bargains to be had but I have never learned to wrap packages early. That’s a lesson I hope to teach myself this year. Wish those big gift bags weren’t so expensive.
It’s been a difficult year and a half for me with my health on top of 25 previous years of problems and I find myself in a position where I cannot possibly do all the baking, shopping and entertaining I once did. I miss those days and often grieve for them but realize I must get on with the business of living in the present and will try to do just that. I’m going to try to count my blessings and think about what I can do, not what I can do no longer.
I know many of you, my friends, also face challenges with your health problems and must be facing many of these same questions regarding what you must change, can’t change and indeed will change, albeit kicking and screaming. I urge you not to torture yourselves for the sake of tradition. Let us try to remember this is a time of togetherness and hope; a time of family love and generosity but not indebtedness, and most of all a time of memories. Some of those memories are painful but the majority of them are full of joy. Life cannot be all frosted ginger cookies and pumpkin pie slathered with whipped cream therefore we need to remember there is robust joy in a good pickle or relish, now and then.
Life moves along and drags us with it; all too often as we are resisting but the calendar doesn’t seem to be aware of our reticence. Like a runaway sleigh with us holding on for dear life we are going to a new destination. Life never stands still, like a reindeer munching on hay or crunching an apple or carrot. What do we resist? Change, pain and moderation via compromise are part of us as we grieve for who we used to be. Grief has its season and we must beware and attempt to keep it in its place. Certainly the holidays are full of memories and can touch off grief, but life is memories. What else do we share, take with us from this world and hold most dear?
It’s not compromise if you cannot do as much as you once did. I know. It feels like compromise but if you’re upright, breathing and have a beating heart, enjoy those facts. Remember to be thankful, not resentful. You’ll spoil all of the holidays for yourself, for others and yes, for me. I’ll know. Magic sparks fly out when you’re happy. Have you learned nothing from me all of these years? Many of us have new concerns, new pain or more than we had previously. These cannot be excuses for brushing off this wonderful, joyous season. So many of us have to learn what it is to say the word “NO.” Cutting back on the budget, our time and our energy; these are not sins, lawbreakers or even bad things. They are just change and it is human nature to always resist change, especially if it is not a change we chose.
There are easier ways to wrap, to cook, to bake and to shop. I’m not able to get out and shop this year, nor was I able to last year and with many apologies to the local merchants; most of my shopping this year will be bargain hunting online. Getting to the post office is also difficult so I don’t think I’ll be sending out greeting cards this year. That doesn’t mean I can’t call or send an email to a dear friend in greeting. Many friends and family of the younger generation don’t send out cards any longer anyway. You see, life is always moving on.
There are so many factors in chronic pain and disease that can cause us to lose joy in this life such as stress, depression and sometimes, reading too much on the internet about our individual conditions. It is literally possible to make a condition worse by scaring ourselves. Too much information can sometimes be worse than not enough. We need to use caution all year long and anytime we get information. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean you or I have a certain condition, neither does it mean we will react like someone else reacts.
My friends, I urge you to suck each morsel out of each moment you can and not be dragged down into the morass of negativity due to loneliness, pain or health worries. I know most of us in the free, developed world have many fears this year and have for some time but we can’t let it win by taking the joy from life. Courage has to become our new byword in today’s society as we skate forward, being aware of any and all holes in the ice, fully knowing we can’t spot each danger but doing our best to avoid the thin layers of ice.
Please have a wonderful, most blessed Thanksgiving and don’t be afraid to embrace the beginnings of the Christmas season, the most joyous time of the year. What’s wrong with stretching it out a bit? I know I could use a bit more Christmas spirit in my life this year, how about you?