Sunday, December 28, 2008

Why Can't It Be Christmastime All Year (Rosie Thomas)

Hi, Honeys - I'm home!

Just back late last night from transporting a family of five via minivan through three states/four households and a motel/1600+ miles in 8 days - equal amounts calm and chaos, delight and depression, exhilaration and exhaustion... and we slept peacefully in our own beds last night, albeit already missing the company of long-distance family...

So much ground to cover (pun intended) - here's a sampling of magic moments:

~ We left home in Florida about midnight Friday (passing our intended departure time by 2 hours), driving straight through to Aiken, South Carolina where we arrived a bit after noon - stopped at a Cracker Barrel on the way for breakfast (where I reprised their fluffy-in-the-middle, crispy-around-the-edges pancakes - yum!).

~ The weather turned bitter cold for two days, but thankfully we had coats/scarves/gloves/hats/boots to ward off the worst - it actually was a nice change of pace from the 80+ degree days we'd left behind...

~ We took my husband's stepmom (who lives in Batesburg, about 30 miles away) out for lunch to a local barbeque place, where she ate well and chatted animatedly - afterwards, we visited the cemetery where we buried R's dad a little over a year ago, and it was an emotional moment for all of us...

~ Went to lunch the next day at the health food store/restaurant where my niece K works - great products and delicious food (I will be attempting to re-create the carrot ginger bisque soon!).

~ We resurrected my husband's family tradition of playing penny poker on Christmas Eve (which we celebrated Monday, December 22 since we had to get back on the road the following day) - we took turns dealing and choosing which format (5 card draw/7 card straight/Texas Hold-em, etc.) and wild cards (deuces and one-eyed Jacks, baseball, Follow the Queen, etc.).

~ It was a treat to have my recently-acquired laptop on the trip, where I could do quick e-mail checks so my ever-growing inbox wouldn't seem quite so daunting a week later - I also wrote out and mailed my holiday cards from the motel...

~ The drive from my husband's sister's house in South Carolina to my mom's home in Georgia is about 3 hours, and we arrived there about 4 p.m. Tuesday - we immediately made a grocery store run and cooked a nice dinner for mom that evening (chicken, rice, steamed green beans, roasted yellow squash)... with store-bought pie for dessert...

~ I've mentioned before that my mom is in declining health, and it was frightening to see how much worse she was since the end of October, when I was up there for the Dar concert - she is on oxygen 24/7 now (we had a tank delivered to my sister's house so Mom could spend a few nights) and, even then, she gets easily out of breath. My brother and sister call her daily, with my brother stopping in every weekend to see what she needs/do things around the house and my sister visiting at least that often, as well as getting mom to all her doctor appointments.

Mom has amazing friends and neighbors, who also check on her regularly - however, my brother, sister and I need to have an in-depth conversation as to exactly what our long-term hopes/plans are for mom (in-home caregiver, assisted living facility, moving to Florida... and in with us, etc.). With both diseases (kidney and pulmonary fibrosis) being chronic and progressive, it has become increasingly more difficult for mom to care for herself, even slowing down substantially - this trip was a wake-up call for me, and it was hard to keep my composure when all I wanted to do was weep openly and often...

~ A fireplace is a treat for us, so we bought firewood and kept a nice fire burning Tuesday night, while we watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas and White Christmas (with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney) - classic...

~ Over to my sister's the next day (Christmas Eve), where we ate our traditional Chinese food and finished wrapping presents/stuffing stockings/readying ourselves for Santa's arrival - I had forgotten our stockings back in Florida, so we improvised with Santa hats from the local dollar store!

~ My 12-year-old niece actually let us sleep until 9 Christmas morning, whereupon we all went downstairs and opened presents - we kept things simple and budget-limited this year, yet my children still managed to amaze/delight me with their choices: from Sarah... a gorgeous "be the change you wish to see in the world" silver necklace and a book, Why a Daughter Needs a Mom, to which she added personalized statements on each page (positively sobworthy); from Rob... a beautiful sage green dragonfly vase; from Eric... another necklace, this one silver and lapis; from mom... the movie of Mamma Mia! and a check; from my brother Brad... a Target gift card (yay!); from Mari... our family vacation photo in a Blessings frame, a Dance Sing Laugh Love plaque, a sun/moon for the patio, some tall drink glasses and, best of all, a book she made herself on the computer of all her favorite/most-used/best-requested recipes, which she gifted to everyone (hey, Mari... I don't think you stuck to the limit... :-)

~ My husband and I gave each other... drumroll, please... a new bathroom, on which work should begin tomorrow morning (fingers crossed) and hopefully be finished by week's end - it will be nice to have two again!

~ We stayed in our pajamas, eating Mari's delicious strada and quiches and drinking mimosas and totally lost track of time... so our college friend Steve and his wife Betty (who we knew were coming about 11 for a visit) totally caught us off-guard when they arrived promptly - had a grand time with them until they left about 2... whereupon we began preparing a mouth-watering lunch of ham, hashbrown casserole, shrimp and grits, green beans and rolls.

~ Overheard from our menfolk cleaning up in the kitchen after dinner (while we women sat at the table, still sipping wine), after the garbage disposal had noisily run: "I don't know what it was... but it's gone now!"...

~ We curled up on the couches later that evening to watch back-to-back movies of Mamma Mia! and Sex and the City (accompanied by dessert of the peanut butter and apple pies we didn't have room for earlier) - at that point, my poor sister (chipper and organized and active since we got there) started feeling sick and went up to bed...

~ Went back to mom's about noon Friday where we took it easy (meant to play Scrabble but never got around to it) - Mari joined us later, still not feeling well, and we kept the fire going all night, more for comfort than warmth...

~ Saturday morning came much too early and it was back in the car for the 12-hour drive to Florida, where traffic was horrible most of the way until we hit the Turnpike - it was wonderful to pick up the dog from our friends who were keeping him and finally get back home... where I've spent most of the day puttering and re-acclimating (laundry and shopping and e-mail, oh my!).

As we were watching the Grinch only a few days ago, I listened closely to the last song, which hit me in the heart - took me a while to find the snippet online... but worth the effort, as it totally seems to sum up our holiday experience ("just as long as we have we" indeed... :-)

"Welcome Christmas
Bring your cheer
Cheer to all Whos far and near
Christmas Day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp
Christmas Day will always be
Just as long as we have we
Welcome, Christmas while we stand
heart to heart and hand in hand."

P.S. More SMM
here, here and here...

SONG: Why Can't It Be Christmastime All Year by Rosie Thomas (I can't seem to find the lyrics, but
here's the YouTube video/recording)

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote, Beth Peck (illustrator)

POEM: Despair by Billy Collins

So much gloom and doubt in our poetry -
flowers wilting on the table,
the self regarding itself in a watery mirror.

Dead leaves cover the ground,
the wind moans in the chimney,
and the tendrils of the yew tree inch toward the coffin.

I wonder what the ancient Chinese poets
would make of all this,
the shadows and empty cupboards?

Today, with the sun blazing in the trees,
my thoughts turn to the great
tenth-century celebrators of experience,

Wa-Hoo, whose delight in the smallest things
could hardly be restrained,
and to his joyous counterpart in the western provinces,

QUOTE: "I sometimes think we expect too much of Christmas Day. We try to crowd into it the long arrears of kindliness and humanity of the whole year. As for me, I like to take my Christmas a little at a time, all through the year. And thus I drift along into the holidays - let them overtake me unexpectedly - waking up some fine morning and suddenly saying to myself: "Why, this is Christmas Day!" ~ David Grayson


  1. welcome home Susan...and a Healthy, Happy New Year to you and Yours!

  2. Hey, Catherine ~

    Same to you, my dear - here's wishing you the best 2009 has to offer... and beyond... <3

  3. Welcome back, Susan! Your holidays sound wonderful. Happy New Year!

  4. Hey, M ~

    Thanks... and Happy New Year to you and yours as well - I look forward to spending even more time together in 2009... <3

  5. But we DID stick to the limit...all the gifts were from our whole 3 x $15 = $45 and we kept to it. Seriously, it was more fun having the limit and I feel it prompted more thought into each gift. And with my new found love of Ross and TJ Maxx, it was easy.

    So so glad to have been able to spend yet another holiday season with you and your wonderful family. I am back to normal now (or as close as I can be) and did finally watch the SATC movie all the way through.

    Love you guys and we'll talk soon...

    Guess Who?!? :)

  6. Hey, Guess Who/Baby Sister!

    Okay, okay... you convinced me - just goes to show what a creative and thrifty shopper you were, such that it *felt* like so much more... :-)

    Rob has cooked dinner two nights in a row from recipes in your book: enchiladas and poppyseed chicken - loving it!

    Will give you a call later today to check in as well as wish you all a Happy New Year - love you, kiddo... <3