How do you have Christmas after 57 years knowing what was coming and getting excited, not for the presents we would each get, but the cookies, the nut bread, making presents for others, for the family tradition?
I found for me to do something so foreign to my life before this year was how to spend Dhristmas. Bug and I drove north. It was cold, but the only "snow" we saw was hidden in the woods along a river as we drove north from Florida. Well, unless you count the piles pushed off parking lots and sidewalks. They looked more like an old Slurpee with liquorish flavored syrup. I don't mind driving north and not seeing snow. But the cold was everywhere. How do people keep their giant homes warm in the winter? They don't as far as I can tell. I am not criticizing, I am sure that they are used to keeping the house in the upper 60s. I am sure it is environmentally smarter and definitely makes sense financially, but I don't go outside here when it is below 70 if I can help it. What do you do when the house doesn't even get to 70. Wear lots of sweaters, preferably cashmere and warm comfy socks and sit under a blanket. I am just not made to live in the cold.
We had a wonderful visit with the kids. Christmas Eve, Ken's Dad came over for dinner and Shireen and Ken cooked a beautiful ham dinner with home made chicken soup and a lovely chicken breast cooked perfectly for me. The table was sparkling and perfect for Christmas dinner. The room was golden washed with the light from one of the ten Christmas trees in the house. The house smelled of ham, brown sugar and pineapple. The rich savory smell of chicken soup bubbling on the stove. We all set together around the table. Kensington sat next to his Poppa Bug, Colton sat next to his grandmother. Patient with me as the joy just bubbled out of me. We ate as a family, like was the tradition of my family. We thought of those absent from our table, knowing they were with other beloved members of our combined families. We toasted and Chippy the shelf elf moved around the room unseen by our youngest member who ahhhhed in sheer amazement to see that his best friend Chippy at slipped off of the table and up on the grandfather clock. The adults conspired together to find moments to shift Chippy's position without being detected. Even the 13 year old joined in instead of spoiling the fun and ratting us out. At the end of dinner I leaned in and whispered to him, "See, it is way more fun to play a little trick on Kensington because it made all of us happy and see the real spirit of Christmas. That one day when both he and his brother were all grown he would then be able to tell Kensington the little trick we played on him at dinner that night." Colton looked at me with awe in his face. He got it, and because he really did understand then he was allowed to look through that veil of the adult world. Into the nitty gritty life of adults trying to do our best. He truly saw the magic that exits between the world of the young and the not so young. That lessons can be learned in strange ways.
Christmas morning Chippy was perched on the Christmas tree holding a note. Kensington is 5 and just starting kindergarten. He recognizes letters, but he is not able to read riddles. The note stated that before they could open their first present they would have to find the present that they would open last. Colton had to read the notes for his little brother. None of the adults would read for Kensington, and no one could open any presents until they followed the riddle. A few clues later and Kensington was happily rushing between clue and clue. "Where do you wash your hands?", "It is very cold where your next clue lies" and so on. Even Colton, at 13 who is in that disgruntled age of believers and those who make the magic for the believers, got into the hunt. He allowed Kensington to figure out the clue and madly dash to get the next one. He followed behind with bright eyes reading each clue. A team working together, and it was wonderful. They were happy and for a few minutes they were just brothers, happily chasing a riddle together on Christmas morning. Their parents watching, their grand parents, oohing and ahhhhing and cheering them on. They finally came to the present they would open last. It took a few minutes to explain this to Kensington. It is 5 and he had worked very hard to find this present and now he was supposed to go back into the family room and be happy with all the presents under the tree. He may be 5, and at first look this may have seemed unfair to him, but he figured out his odds quickly by the number of presents with his name on them and was soon ripping through bright red and green wrapping paper excited. Both boys oohed and ahhhed over each present. Each of them got what their hearts most desired. How can Christmas not be the very best when you are still a child at heart, and you get what you most wished for?
When the presents were unwrapped, the children's desire for opening presents spent in the brief joy and energy expelled earlier, we packed our bags to leave. I hated going. I hated missing Christmas dinner with Lisa, Shireen's best friend. A big lovely Italian Christmas family dinner. Sounds wonderful. Unless you are taking the strongest pain med the doctor prescribed and still struggling. And not just once, but several days I actually followed the instructions on the label for as often as I could take them. Pain management is new for me. It is amazing all the different things, good and bad that seem to increase the need to manage the pain. The joyful excitement of children on the holiday. The most wonderful moments you could ever wish for, but on the pain scale, it is right up there as one of the top 10 things that cause the need to manage the pain. Lifting heavy items, getting chilled, breathing in the cold winter air in the Northeast, sleeping on a bed other then our own comfortable bed at home contribute to the challenges. Talking and being around people too long at anyone time, sitting in a car for too many hours, well, I guess you could say that just about everything I do, feel, hear, see or generally experience will affect me. I realize that this is true for everyone, young, old, sick and healthy alike. Everything affects us, it is how we handle things is what gives us a happy life. Maybe the biggest gift I received this year was the opportunity to experience so much stimuli at the beginning of this new phase of my journey. A time to understand how so many things affect me, not in a day or two. No, instantaneously, just something happens, and pow your body feels it. Yoga helps me to feel where the pain is coming from and then focusing on those areas and try to breath through the pain. That helps mostly. If nothing else, it gets me to stop and focus on what am I doing. I have no intention of staying at home. I have no intention of not being around people and the emotions and personalities pouring all around me. I just know to prepare and think through pain management before I go some place that I have learned affects me. I still plan to travel. I am just trying to still live life, but understand what that means when it comes to medications.
We left Christmas morning while the children were still weary and happy from their ripping and tearing of paper and packages. We left while the joy of the holiday held us tight in a group hug. We drove south to Virginia where Bug's son lives. We drove with all the crazy people trying to get somewhere. They do not have the same need for personal space up north then I am used to. Their driving reflects that same closeness but now wrapped up in their vehicles racing along turnpikes and highways at break neck speed. We took back roads when ever possible.
We had Christmas dinner at Denny's with Bug's son and his sweet girl friend. She is next door girl beautiful. That sweet, intelligent best friend kind of girl. Just lovely inside and out. Denny's isn't really where I would rather have had Christmas dinner this year. But I got to meet my step son. He is too old to ever think of me as a step mother, which is just fine with me. But if he feels comfortable enough around me and his Dad and me together, to spend more time with his Dad, well, that would make me very happy. It was a crazy night and we were all exhausted from a challenging day, but we sat around the table in the middle of all the chaos of families and children crowded into tables Christmas night at Denny's in Newport News, VA. Everything at the table seemed to stand out while everyone else in the crowded diner disappeared into a hum. I saw how much Bug and his son look alike. Josh has his grandfather's color blue sparkling from expressions I have seen on Bug's face. Family features passed around the genetic pool. Popping up in every generation in a unique new person. It was a wonderful Christmas dinner. The four of us were a little family sharing the moment together, and we all looked very comfortable with each other. nice. very nice.
The next morning we got up, ate breakfast at the IHOP, long story and met Josh at his new shop. We were able to walk around Josh's new space. He is putting it together now and hopes to have a grand opening maybe around March. He would also like to have a hog to cook for the opening that he got himself. We will have to check with Spat and see if he can help make that happen.
We headed south again. I was not really feeling any better. I seemed to still be not getting the pain meds right. So we decided to stop in Southport, NC and spend the night with the most amazing, precious, special friends, family actually that we love so dearly, Marty and Shelia. Oh, and of course, Marco and Polo, their 'boys'. The boys are adorable. Marco is growing so big. His mother was a poodle and the father was the shizt poo portion. Polo takes after his father is quite petite. They are sweet wonderful little dogs, and help take away a little of our home sickness for our kids. Their antics entertain us and hold our interest better then TV or even a movie. We exchanged presents, and they had picked out such thoughtful gifts. Just perfect. The four of us shared dinner at a Mexican restaurant down the road which was some of the best Mexican food I have ever had. Bug and I enjoyed my left overs the next night for dinner.
The next morning Marty needed to go into work at the airport. Shelia would be working at the Hallmark store. So knowing that they already had commitments made it easier for us to get up the next morning and continue our journey back home. It was too short, but so sweet. We shared breakfast of turkey bacon, eggs, fruit and Marty's delicious pumpkin spiced bread. Marty packed us up enough loaves to keep us set with this amazing treat for many more mornings. They had even hunted and found my most favorite tea, Earl Grey Decaf. I felt so loved and nurtured around this sweet adorable couple. But as comfortable and luxurious is our guest sweet, we missed our own bed. So we hugged and smiled. We promised each other to get together again soon. Anytime, but let's do it soon. More hugs and then driving away from a place so special, so filled with love and funny intelligent people.
(Marty, how did I do?)
This time we declared no more stops, even with our most beloved ones. I needed to get home. To our bed, our 'kid's, our warm weather, our chairs in front of our TV. Everyone has been so generous, kind and loving. And as much as I revel in the love, sometimes my body needs to be in a place with less stimulation. Even positive stimulation can exhaust and over whelm me.
We were gone for 10 days.
We spent time with Shireen, Ken and the four grand children. Sweet, beloved grandchildren that stole my heart over and over. Joy that left me awed. I got to spend time with my grand daughter crocheting. I got to spend time with my daughter while she learned the knitting loom and I sat and crocheted. We talked about this and that and laughed. We were comfortable there just gabbing and knotting yarn into lovely scarves and afghans. A quiet time to enjoy the holiday, those moments already spent, others still come on that afternoon.
How can you explain the joy of time spent with your children and grand children, when you never had children. What I have learned is that the emotions you are having are yours and right for you. I have always loved basking in the joy of mothers and fathers and grandmothers and grandfathers when they spoke of their off springs. I felt the joy and wonderment of a child born, a child loved and worried over. And now to realize my position in this complicated world of families. I am actually the step mother of the step mother of my grand daughter. But when I look at that lovely face, I see through the eyes of my friends. I have seen the look I know is on my face. It is the look I have seen other parents, grand parents, aunts and uncles have on their face. When they look not only at the person in front of them, but also the connection between themselves and those eyes they look into.
I got to share that kind of moment with the family in NJ
but I also got to share a moment with the son I had never met.
It is almost impossible for me to imagine, let alone realizing that the memories in my head are real.
To leave these precious children that came with Bug into my was hard
Spending the next night with Shelia and Marty, it took the sting out of the separation of the previous few days.
We drove the long drive home. I-95 was a parking lot. Just before you got to each exit the traffic would take off and you would be going 45 - 50 mph and you are like, yeah, we are finally getting past whatever the problem was and get moving. Ha! Ha Ha!!! I say. As soon as you pull securely past the exit the traffic would come to a complete stop. After much frustration and inching forward we got off on another exit and had the most beautiful ride on the back roads. Every time we got close enough to see the interstate, we could see red brake lights and cars stopped. We zipped along under canopy roads and fields of cotton. The cotton white like snow against the red dirt. We were heading home. Home. It had been a wonderful holiday, and now it was time to go home.
Home in our own bed
We are both completely exhausted.
The pain is much less here
I am listening to you all and trying very hard to figure out what to take when to keep things running a bit more comfortably
The side effects are literally popping out all over. I have a few, not many red spots all over my body. My stomach is also putting in its two cents concerning meds and how well it behaves.
It has been a 10 days of learning to deal with the changes occurring inside of me. I appreciate the opportunity to have meds that help after I have lived a good day.
I was awed and reminded so many moments over these 10 days about the important things in life.
How many wonderful things I have in my life
Bug and I watched White Christmas with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Cluney and Mitzi Gaynor. My favorite Christmas movie
We watched The Santa Claus movies with Tim Allen, we watched the Christmas movie with Chevy Chase in it. Movies as much a part of our world as the one with Bing and friends. Wonderful happy movies
This was one of the most wonderful Christmases ever.
I missed my brothers
I missed my Daddy
But Daddy will soon join Mother in that memories have faded, but so has the pain for missing her
I spent this Christmas different then any other Christmas I have ever had
It was a wonderful Christmas
All of it
Absolutely every single moment special in my memories
Next year? I don't know. For the first time in my life, I do not know where I will be next Christmas.
And you know.
That is okay.
Maybe I will wake up in my own cozy home, snug as a bug (or should I say snug with my bug) in our little bed. And then Christmas morning. Magical, light shifting into the bedroom golden with the day.
We will see
For now, I am still radiating the glow of joy, love and aw of these past few weeks.
Again and again, challenges are lost behind the happiness of life