Beautiful Ride

The somewhat self-indulgent rantings about the beautiful ride that is my life!

All Is Calm, All Is Bright December 26, 2011

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Holidays,Home — beautifulride @ 12:49 pm
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All is calm, all is bright.

It is the morning after Christmas, and these words couldn’t be more true. As I started my day early this morning, my home was blanketed in the beautiful silence and stillness of the morning that I have grown to love. My family was sound asleep, hopefully still dreaming of sugarplums and Christmas memories. The light of the sun was just beginning to glow, slowly bringing to life another day. The traffic was slow and quiet, as it is on a holiday…no commuters rushing to the train…no school children headed to classes. I started a little laundry, picked up a few dishes that mysteriously appeared after I drifted off last night, took care of my mama chores. I stepped out into the chilly morning to bring in the milk and yogurt and bread dropped off by the milkman, impressed that he had already stopped by and a little disappointed that I didn’t get my empty bottle out for him. And then I poured a fresh, warm cup of coffee and sat in the living room, with the tree lights twinkling in the corner and the remnants of yesterday tucked into tidy little piles of boxes and surprises on the floor.

The piles are a bit smaller than years past…and that’s ok. In fact, it’s more than ok. Perhaps it’s because the boys are getting older, and gone are the days of large, brightly colored plastic playthings. Those were great days, and magical mornings, but now they are older and their gifts of choice come in much smaller packages. Perhaps though, it’s because they had much smaller lists this year…more modest, more thoughtful, more practical. Maybe it was all the talk of the economy and it’s downturn this past year. Or maybe it’s that with every passing year, they look more and more toward our family traditions of Christmas and less and less at what’s under the tree. Don’t misunderstand…the surprises under the tree, in their beautiful wrapping and fancy bows, are still a huge part of the anticipation of Christmas morning; but, I’m finding that they are becoming more appreciative of the gifts that we give that speak to who they are…less so with the idea of stuff for the sake of getting stuff.

They would probably say, just about now, that Mom is sappy…just being Mom…and that none of this is true. That they would want to find iPads and laptops and flat screens and whatever is the latest and greatest under the tree attached to a gift tag with their name on it. But from what I saw yesterday, and from the thank you hugs and conversations about what an awesome Christmas it was and what cool stuff they got, I would say that they are more grateful and more grounded than they would want anyone to believe.

It has been a roller coaster ride of a year for our family, both good and bad. We’ve watched those we love struggle with illness and tough times. We’ve felt the beginnings of a shift in our own lives, as one son moved to the other side of a neighboring state, and another got a letter of acceptance that will soon take him north. We’ve been blessed with work, but it has kept us very, very busy…and apart…as Rick travels a great deal for business. We’ve seen my little business grow, but not without the growing pains and time commitment that come along with that. We’ve seen our other sons work hard and find success in the activities that make them so happy, and their willingness and devotion to doing what they do. We’ve experienced an earthquake (slight), a hurricane and an autumn snowstorm that left us with damages we didn’t expect. We have cried and we have worried and we have prayed…and we have lived and we have laughed and we have loved.

One of my favorite images of this holiday season happened this past Friday, as we took our annual train ride into the City to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, the windows at Macy’s, and the crèche at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We were walking down the street, and I was in the back of our little crowd. And I watched them together, brother to brother and father to sons. They were laughing and talking and enjoying their time together. My heart was so full I thought it would burst.

A little later, the very next night, we attended Christmas Eve services together. We sang the words to “Silent Night.” That hymn, sung at that time, in that setting has always made me well up just a little. I become flooded with memories of Christmases past…my grandparents, my parents, my husband and our children as babies…those that are with us still and those that have moved on. And I was reminded that things change. That time does not stand still. But for that one moment, as I looked to my right and saw them all standing there together, singing together and creating a memory that they may share together in a Christmas yet to come, I felt truly happy and truly blessed. And all was calm…and all was bright.

 

O Christmas Trees, O Christmas Trees…. December 14, 2010

Filed under: beautiful ride,Family,Holidays,Home — beautifulride @ 7:11 am
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We are definitely a Christmas family. We have countless traditions that we observe, year after year; traditions from our childhoods that we’ve passed along to our children, and new traditions that we’ve created with them. Christmas is in the back of our collective heads all year long. With my extended family, we draw names from a hat on Christmas night, so that we have a whole year to find that one special something. I’m also known for picking up little gifts here and there throughout the year…sometimes I see something in March that is perfect, so I buy it and stash it. Then there is the ritualistic “search” for goodies under the bed in early November, just to take stock of what I’ve already purchased. And we’ve amassed such a collection of Christmas music that the iPod goes on the holiday mix on November 1st–otherwise, we would never hear it all!

The final countdown begins, however, on Thanksgiving night. After the dishes are done and after the pie has been sliced, the 6 of us (and anyone else who happens to be visiting!) gather around the TV for the annual airing of the holiday classic “Christmas Vacation!” We’ve decided there is no better way to get in that holly jolly spirit then spending the evening with Clark and Cousin Eddy–the wise cracking, dysfunctional Griswold clan may cut a bit close to home for SOME families, but the ultimate reminder of the film is crazy or not crazy, family is family; and what better time to embrace the crazies than the Christmas season!

Speaking of music and crazy family interactions….another favorite tradition has been a friendly competition between us and my brother and his wife–been going on for at least 20 years now. Every year, we scour the musical universe to find what we believe may be the most silly, most goofy, most painful holiday cd out there. You can’t even imagine how many bad songs, or bad renditions of good songs, exist. Sometimes we pick something that we think will be bad, but it turns out to be great; but more often than not, it’s just terrible! And in all the years we’ve been exchanging, we’ve only duplicated once–“A Toolbox Christmas” (yes, Christmas tunes played on common household tools) Sound good? I’ll play it for you sometime!

One of my favorite traditions centers around the centerpiece of Yuletide decorations–the tree. Or in our case…the trees! When I was a little girl, we would go to a tree farm in November and walk around until we found the perfect evergreen. Then we would tag it. A few weeks later, Dad would go back to the farm and get the freshly cut tree and bring it home, sit it in a bucket full of coal, and let it “rest” for a few days. Then he would string the lights…the old-fashioned, bright-colored lights that you would screw into the sockets. And that was it. In our house, Santa would decorate the rest of the tree on Christmas Eve, after we were asleep, and we would wake up to the shiny and familiar ornaments dangling from the evergreen boughs. And every year, we would get a new ornament. My mom would tell us that a new ornament every year meant that when we grew up and left home, we would have enough ornaments to decorate our own trees, and they would be meaningful treasures full of memories of Christmas’ past…and she was correct. Not long before our first Christmas in our first apartment, my Mom pulled out a little box of treasures…my ornaments from my childhood. And a new ornament…a “Your First Christmas Together” ornament…for OUR tree. In fact, the first Christmas gift I bought for Rick was an ornament…a silly “Mistletoad”…which still hangs in a place of honor on our main tree. 

We have three trees now. A small one in our family room that I call our Homemade Tree. It holds the most precious reminders of days gone by–all of the ornaments the boys have made in Sunday School, preschool, and elementary school. Handprints and macaroni angels and a nativity in a popsicle stick barn. We have a skinny, potted tree in the dining room with ornaments that would no longer fit on our big tree, which stands next to the living room fireplace. We decorate the tree together…the boys put their ornaments on first, and then Rick and I weave ours among theirs. Our guys have received one new ornament in their Christmas stocking every year, plus countless others from friends and family. They are chosen carefully, and marked with an initial and a date. I hope that someday,  when they hang them on their own tree, in a distant Christmas yet to come, that they will be sweet reminders of the traditions of our Christmas’ past.