Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas confessions

In my own personal, when-I-was-a-kid world, Christmas was glorious.  I remember our mis-shaped, gangly Christmas trees that Dad would put up a week or so before the holiday (normal timing in those days).  It's curious why trees looked different in the 50s and 60s ..... more natural and less pruned to look like giant gum drops.  Plus all the silvery foil icicles with which we'd smother every branch and twig.  Does anyone use those icicles anymore? ...... (I tried them once, years later, but the mess got them banned along with Easter grass.)

I remember music from Handel's Messiah playing on the stereo ..... a tradition that planted the love for that masterpiece deeply into my soul.  I remember my two older brothers tromping down from their upstairs bedroom announcing how torturous it had been waiting for morning.  I remember the awe when I realized the biggest present in the room, that had appeared mysteriously during the night, had my name on it.  There was a fire in the fireplace.  Dad distributed the gifts.  I don't recall if a big dinner was the norm, but there was always good food.  (Potato chips, nuts, and ribbon candy come to mind.)  Anyway, it was everything Christmas should be.

Being the youngest and last to leave the nest, my teen years were sometimes rocky and my relationship with my stepmom was strained.  I remember one Christmas morning, when I was about 17, opening presents alone.  I have no complaints ..... I mean, I had gifts!  A lot of people don't.  But to this day, I empathize with all youngest family members.  The older kids get to have all or most of their sibs there for their whole childhood.  The youngest often doesn't.

Then came the best Christmases of all.  There is nothing as good as being the Santa and the fun of watching one's own kids on those magical mornings.  I loved everything Christmas-related when our kids were growing up.  (I tried to enhance the true 'reason for the season' and extending the family tradition of playing The Messiah music .... although .... one of my favorite parts that says, "All we, like sheep ..... all we, like sheep ..... have gone astraaaaaaay .....", our kids would sing along: "Oh WE like sheep .... Oh WE like sheep!")

We always stayed home on Christmas eve and it was my labor of love to make everything as homey and memorable as a Hallmark card.  There'd always be a fire in the wood stove, music playing, classic Christmas movies to watch, home-baked cookies, re-enactments of the nativity and other traditions .... and sitting together in the living room sharing memories of favorite Christmases past.

The one that stands out was the year when, after all the presents were opened, we pointed out one more gift tucked up high in the tree branches.  It was a metal coil .... part of something the kids had to find.  They began to search, unsure of what they were looking for ..... then the screams erupted when they discovered a new trampoline in the backyard.  We worked hard to give our kids happy memories but no doubt, their dad and I had the most fun of all.

Fast forward to now.  I don't know why, but Christmas has become difficult for me.  And try as I may, I cannot seem to remedy it.  The expectations seem unattainable.  Helpful, listening friends have suggested I simplify and I've almost simplified it right off the calendar ... leaving a pile of guilt in the wake.  I've stopped sending cards.  I hardly bake because I am like an alcoholic in a liquor store when sweets are around.  Decorating is a chore that has to be all undone in a few weeks.   Choosing gifts is stressful and whereas I used to start in September with a carefully detailed list .... I now procrastinate as long as possible.   Hence I've cut it to the bare bones.   On the list of the "Five Love Languages", gift-giving is somewhere around negative fifteen for me.

I cannot explain it.  There's no reason for it.  Especially when my life is near perfect.  Our happily married kids are having their own best Christmases as they are, or are on the threshold of, experiencing it as young parents.   My cup is full.   I have absolutely nothing to complain about.  And yet ..... there it is.  I don't like being a Scrooge ..... but the relief I feel when it's over, the last box is stored away, and there are eleven whole months till I have to face it again, is very real.

So instead of a gift or a card or a plate of cookies, may I offer one of my love languages instead?  "Words of affirmation"....  Here goes .....

I love my siblings ...... who, many years ago, all did that leaving-the-nest thing before I was ready; but are not allowed to leave the nest of mortality without me.  I've informed them of this.  It's not happening.

I love my kids.  If there was a selection process before we were all born, I was at the head of the line.  Somehow, undeserving, I won the lottery.  Their joy is my joy ..... literally.  And I love their kids.   Watching my kids become parents is akin to heaven.  I wish I was more like a story-book grandma, with sleepovers, tea parties, and full cookie jars;  nevertheless, I love them in my own awkward way.  And I love my kids' spouses.  Again .... lottery winnings.  My kids married angels.

And I love my best friend/husband/forever-partner who would move heaven and earth if possible, for me.  I could happily spend every day, Christmas or otherwise, forevermore with him.

Thank you all, dear friends and family.  You know who you are.  We love and appreciate every one of you.  The posts in this blog are my Christmas letter.  And in spite of my weirdness this time o' year ......

Have a Wonderful Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

We suck at full-timing

In RV lingo, full-timing means, as you may have guessed, living 100% in a box on wheels, as opposed to dividing one's time between that and a "sticks 'n bricks" .....  more RV lingo meaning a regular house. And we suck at it.

Why?  Because if we did this right, we'd be somewhere in sunny Arizona right now along with the hoards of other full-timers who have got it figured out.  I mean, that kind of IS the point.

Instead, we sit in a parking lot, in rain/snow with a sub-freezing forecast that extends into oblivion.  The motorcycle is packed away and the motorhome is stationary until conditions thaw out in any of the surrounding mountain passes that hem us in on practically all sides.  A four-wheel-drive, this isn't.

So HOW did we get in this situation?

Because we miss our kids when we're gone, darn it.  This was our year for Thanksgiving (their inlaws get them next year) and so how could we not be here??  And this year they're all in-lawing it for Christmas which frees us up to go somewhere ...... which we would .... if not for the ice and the snowy mountain passes. ..... Plus the added luck of this being a particularly wintery December.  To quote the weatherman on the evening news, "Haven't seen it this bad since '08."

And our friends and extended family ..... they're a problem too.  Christmas parties, get-togethers, plans for motorcycle and backpacking trips, fishing trips, and other all-too-fun activities that they're not allowed to do without us .... and the must-be-there things like funerals, baptisms, weddings, surgeries, and other stuff that knocks everything else down a few notches on the priority list and keep us grounded.  By choice, mind you, but grounded all the same.  The full-timer-pros seem to be able to sever those ties and not look back.  Just head willy-nilly off to their next Florida or New Mexico or Arizona adventure with no thought of loved ones left behind.

So here we are.  Watching the forecast.  Monitoring the pass reports.  Planning our next escape in whatever time-window we can get before being pulled back for the next thing we can't bear to miss.  And weighing the possibility of -- if we DO get away -- getting stuck somewhere on the other side of the pass and not being able to get back when we want to.

But at least indoors we're warm, dry, and cozy with ample propane.  We have all the water and power we need, with another week and a half before needing to go dump the tanks ..... more RV lingo I'll leave you to figure out.

So if you ever notice our parking spot here is suddenly empty with tire tracks in the snow heading out of town ..... that means we made a break for it.  We escaped.  Off to warmer temps and sunshine!

Or .... we're on a run to the dump station a half-mile away.  Either way and in spite of it all, we're still counting our blessings in our little rain-soaked home on wheels.