Well, I finally got up the gumption to sit down and write on a cold, December Saturday. Though we have only had one major snowfall (so far) in mid-November, there has been a smattering of on-and-off flurries several times this month, with the promise of potential Christmas snow in the air. Not being a HUGE fan of snow myself (I much prefer sitting and looking at it through a window in my warm kitchen with my first cup of coffee, rather than be out in it), it finally dawned on me that I no longer MUST go traipsing outside at 6:45 AM to clear off and warm up my car, in order to drive through the white stuff to my office, while trying to avoid those who have completely forgotten how to drive in the snow. (It’s wintertime in New England, folks – DEAL with it!) In fact, it was quite liberating to actually wake up at 7:30 AM that first snowy morning, roll over, smile at my sleeping man, and whisper to myself, “It’s snowing – AND I DON’T HAVE TO GO TO WORK ANYMORE!!!” Then I chuckled to myself, rolled over, caught another 40 winks. Boy, this retirement gig sure does have its perks!
And now that Christmas is nigh, and I have so much more time on my hands, I have actually relished leisurely putting up holiday decor in my new forever home in a quaint little town in Connecticut. When I was still a working stiff at a major intercity bus company, I usually ended up decorating several trees, or assisting with decking the halls throughout our terminal, as well as coordinating my company’s giving tree each year. As a result, my home Christmas prep was usually done in a frenzied rush, getting the tree up right after Thanksgiving was a major undertaking, and literally throwing the outside lights on the bushes and installing 3-foot illuminated dancing candy canes in the Japanese maple on the front lawn was something done a bit haphazardly by myself for years. (Why IN the tree? That way, the candy cane spikes didn’t freeze in the snow, and I could take them down before the spring thaw around St. Patrick’s Day in March!)
When John came into my life, it was rather refreshing to suddenly have a 6’5″ elf to wrangle Christmas decor on the front lawn, as well as at least get the tree up from the basement, lit up and stabilized in the stand for me, leaving the ornament hanging in my expert hands when I got home from work. (Of course, now that I’m home all day, he decided to get a taller tree this year, and as I am vertically challenged myself, he ended up decorating 90% of the tree, leaving me to admire the end result….hey, works for me!)
As you can probably imagine, my alter ego, “Herself the Elf” has been faced with quite a quandary this year. Since I am now retired, and moved about 90 minutes away from my Massachusetts home city since 1972, I no longer have so much daily stress and hustle & bustle to deal with – but I am also missing the bevy of bus drivers, office buddies and bus terminal cronies, as well as long-time neighbors and friends, to shower with my usual tons of Christmas cookies and fudge. Mind you, I come from a long line of pseudo-“elves” who not only baked cookies, whipped up homemade candy, fudge and the most amazing handmade ornaments you’ve ever seen, but truly LOVED every aspect of Christmas. My Mother was especially gifted at making Christmas a truly magical time for all of us, and was practically a legend in my little NY hometown for sharing her incredible cookies, gifts and her generous warmth of spirit with everyone who crossed her path….from family, friends, and neighbors, to the less fortunate in our community.
As an adult, I used to have an annual long-distance cookie baking competition with my Mom, whose “world record” was 1,472 cookies to my paltry second place personal best of 1,142 (but I make about 16-20 pounds of fudge as well – so THERE!) Like my Mom before me, most of the goodies were packed up for giving to friends and neighbors, and I used to love to make up platters of assorted homemade cookies and fudge for all my Peter Pan Bus Lines co-workers. These intrepid folks have to drive buses, supervise dispatch operations, sell tickets and handle information and customer service calls on Christmas Eve & Christmas Day, so I felt it was important to let them know their efforts were especially appreciated during this busiest travel season of the year. Since retiring however, though I have lots of extra time, I no longer have as many people nearby – so for the first time in about 35 years, I will be making only a fraction of what I used to…much to the delight of my immediate family and new neighbors (I hope!) That being said, it’s time for me to head down to the kitchen to start a batch of red poinsettia cookies, or perhaps green Christmas trees – and if I feel like it, maybe some snickerdoodles to boot….(Mom would be so proud!)
But despite all the sweets-making, card-writing, gift-wrapping and carols playing throughout my new home, my thoughts always seem to go back to those happy, simpler holidays of my childhood…and I find I am channeling my Mom a lot these days – listening to classic Christmas songs as I bake, hang another ornament, or tweak a little of the decor in our house…at other times with the Hallmark Channel on TV in the background….and I find I am operating at a more peaceful, less frenetic pace than I have been since 1971 – my last “childhood” Christmas while still living in my parents’ little house prior to striking out on my own as an adventurous 19-year-old. I find myself getting lost in the memories of the peace and joy, laughter and real love that emanated from my parents and siblings during those Christmases; the fun of finding or even making just the “perfect gifts” for my sisters, or my parents; Christmas caroling from house to house as kids; my Grandparents bringing that extra special brand of love with them when they came in from the “big city” to stay with us through Christmas week; and the gathering of extended family and friends at my Mother’s table on Christmas Day. There was always lots of time for visiting with cousins and at our neighbors’ homes throughout our school vacation, as well. Life was much less complicated back then, there was less emphasis on the material presents under the tree, and more on the giving of yourself, your time and helping others….which has always been the true meaning of Christmas to me….as I believe it should be!
May All Your Christmas Dreams Come True; and Cheer & Peace Be Sent to You.
Spend Precious Time With Those Held Dear; Good Health to You This Coming Year!
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY 2019 TO ALL!