“Christmas snuck up on me this year…”

Rockefeller Center!
Rockefeller Center!

I heard this as a child countless times during the final weeks of the year. School break began in cheers and goodbye hugs, evenings went from cold to colder and Christmas Eve was suddenly upon us. I heard my parents and my friends’ parents commiserating with each another as they frantically shopped at the grocery store and the mall. How could this be? I remember being incredibly confused by the lackluster sentiment. How could something so amazing–Christmas tree, lights, presents, cookies!!–possible sneak up on adult people…given this holiday occurred at the same time, on the same day, each year?

For me, Christmas was always about tradition and anxious anticipation. I salivated over the press cookies (dough that was never quite the right temperature) and waited until we unpacked the decorations so I could spin around the living room with the little nutcracker, imagining I was Clara, just minutes before the Rat King appeared. I balanced my time between wishing for a white Christmas and adding last minute items to my present list. My dad and I had a yearly date to trek out into the snow until we found the perfect tree or our toes froze, whichever came first. I distinctly remember one evening in December when the newspaper published a free pamphlet full of music and lyrics for holiday cheer-spreading carolers. I sang every one from my spot at the kitchen table while my mom prepared candied orange rinds in thin, brightly colored stripes of sticky heaven. 

Those Christmases, before I had money to buy presents or fully understood that Santa wasn’t real, still live somewhere within me. I can still close my eyes and transport myself back to a stomach full of hot chocolate, listen to Mom read holiday books on the couch and smell the freshly cut tree. But now, I finally understand the phrase that I found so perplexing as a child:

“Christmas snuck up on me this year.”

Bryant Park
Bryant Park

I have regrettably become the girl who both started and finished Christmas shopping on December 21st in a rushed bag-flying whirlwind, weaving between 14th and 23rd Street amongst other New York procrastinators. And let me tell you, I was not alone. Jobs. Responsibilities and daily dinner preparation. Junk mail, attempted dusting and laundry. Any and all of these things now fill the space I had a child, space I used to fill by pestering my mom to bake just ONE more type of cookie or asking my dad what he bought me for Christmas as he tried to watch the football game. I’ve made the switch from counting down the minutes to wishing the calendar pages could turn just a little bit slower. 

So tonight, I decided (before packing for home) that I needed to bake banana bread, blast some holiday tunes and remember why I love this season so much. I don’t want to be the grownup who worries more about the gifts still unwrapped and the holiday cookie calories already consumed than the time they spent in the warm company of family and friends. I think the winter season, regardless of the specific holiday, should be as much about giving thanks as giving presents or who gets to light the figgy pudding on fire. 

Macy's Window
Macy’s Window
The roomies
The roomies
Advertisements

Hopeful Thankful Season

‘Tis the season– the season for seeing the first dusting of snow, filling shelves with bottles of Cab & Merlot, building fires in the wood stove, and casting stitches for knitted hats, mittens and scarves. The radio stations praise jingling bells and baby boys and Black Friday enthusiasts are setting their alarm clocks across America. Reserve a turkey and plan the menu. The holiday season is here.

This year my Thanksgiving, as many in the past, will be held at my parents’ house. The morning begins with fresh coffee, breakfast bread and the low hum of parade commentary drifting into the kitchen where preparations are in full swing. As cars arrive, hugs are delivered and tinfoil dishes are slid into the oven. Tradition is butternut squash soup served in hollowed turkey-shaped dishes and Grandpa’s pumpkin pie with a healthy dollop of whipped cream. The dining party is small–five wooden chairs arranged at the table–but the quality of the company far surpasses the quantity of faces and names.

I am thankful for these people around my table and seated elsewhere throughout the world. I saver their unyielding support and generosity as I do my braised carrots and mashed potatoes, thyme and time again. Behind everything in my life that I am thankful for–my job, my home, my travels, my future– there is a friend, family member or stranger who contributed to my thanks.

Who are you thankful for?

Giving thanks often begets feelings of guilt. The Philippines will not easily recover from their country’s devastation. Wars are being fought, children shot and voices left unheard. Who am I to sit in a warm house with a full stomach and fuller heart while others struggle for so much less? But guilt does not help the world. Guilt neither feeds the hungry nor protects future generations. It is hope, not guilt, that arises from thankfulness and paves the way forward. Hope is the kindling that fuels the fire of change. Hope pulls us from our beds each morning and tucks us in every night with the promise of a new dawn.

This year on November 28th, wherever you are and whoever you are with, give thanks for all the people and moments in your life that have made you who you are today. And with this thanks find hope in things to come.

photo (13)Want to have a sustainable Thanksgiving? Check out last years blog: Giving Thanks Sustainably.