Embracing the Season

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

One characteristic I have is that I really like to find reasons to make ordinary life a little more special. College football kickoff Saturday? I'm there with the pepperoni rolls, homemade spicy queso, and Lit'l Smokies. Memorial Day Weekend? I'll make sure we have hot dogs, potato salad, and beer for a cookout, even if it's just Joe and me. National Donut Day? Let's get a box or three! 

I'm not sure where this all comes from. I didn't really grow up like that, but I think that it has to do with the fact that regular days can just become so ... regular, and it's so easy to do the wake up/work/chores/make dinner routine day in and day out with little variation if we don't try. And maybe even more than that, I enjoy it a lot. It brings me a lot of happiness and joy to have a little something to celebrate, a little something to look forward to, a little something that draws us to the special things in life. 

These pumpkin spice muffins are a Weight Watchers recipe. Two ingredients!

Prior to having my own husband and son, the primary beneficiaries of my need to celebrate were my students. Now I'm not some Pinterest person (ask anyone), so I haven't mastered the handmade crafts or elaborate meals or treats. But what I would do is make sure the Nat King Cole or Bing Crosby Christmas CDs were playing when the kids would come to homeroom or Language Arts class between Thanksgiving and Christmas or print out a March Madness bracket for every kid in homeroom to fill out and hang them on the wall so we could have a little friendly basketball competition in the spring. I used to love doing special themed literature units for fall and Christmas (The Midnight Society being my favorite, but I also did one for sixth graders on urban legends that I thought was pretty cool too!) and setting the stage for those units with candlelight and a campfire video from YouTube. If I look at those things I see just how small they really are and what little time they take -- a CD turned on, a PDF downloaded and printed from the internet -- but they honestly made my life much more enjoyable, and I'd like to think the kids' days at school were livened up a little as well. Now that I don't have middle school students I see every day, things are a little different. Last year's Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas were especially strange as I had a very small baby at home who not only would not appreciate a good episode of The Twilight Zone but who couldn't even, you know, speak or sit up, so asking his thoughts on "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" or "The Gift of the Magi" was particularly boring. 

I have found a kindred spirit in my friend Maggie. Maggie has a sweet 4-year-old boy as well as a baby girl who is about five months younger than Bert. Last year, in that stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Maggie and I were both moms at home with little ones (Maggie was pregnant at the time also), and we would text often to get each other through those loooooooooooooong afternoon hours where it was dark outside, you'd run out of ideas to entertain your kid, and your husband wasn't due home for hours. (HOURS!) Maggie said she thought it would be a good idea to make a ritual for the late afternoon: maybe light a special candle or make a special coffee drink. I immediately realized she was speaking my language, and literally the next day I purchased a particular Christmas candle and Chai latte pods for my Keurig. I'd light that candle and drink the Chai lattes in the afternoons, and it was something I looked forward to daily. I also played the heck out of Nat and Bing for Bert, and we found several great Christmas movies -- like Frosty the Snowman, It's a Wonderful Life, and, my personal favorite, The Bishop's Wife -- on YouTube, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. I'd just run those things on a loop all day long, no joke. Joe would come home to the candle, the Christmas Classics playlist on Pandora, and It's a Wonderful Life on TV, being like "Guess we're watching that again!" Yeah, dude, don't touch that remote! 

Had to break out the Edgar Allan Poe coffee mug!

Since I'm not newly postpartum, I have a better ability this year to really embrace the holiday season. Maggie and I are both back in action, in fact; she told me recently that she is really leaning in to the holidays this year, already baking pumpkin pies and doing tons of crafts with her son. I told her I was right with her: this year I am baking all the treats, listening to all the Halloween music, and watching all the spooky shows and movies. In my last grocery run, I bought the pumpkin cookies, the pumpkin spice bread, the pumpkin spice English muffins, the pumpkin spice cinnamon rolls, and the ghost marshmallows. If you drop by my house (please do, I'd love to see you!) anytime this month, please be prepared to be hit in the face so to speak with three pumpkin-scented candles, The Twilight Zone on TV, and some cookies in the oven. Trust me when tell you NONE of this is fancy, it's just special. (I'm being totally serious -- those cookies in the oven are the pre-made Pillsbury ones that have pumpkins on them that you literally just lay on the cookie sheet and bake for 12 minutes. No one is mixing sugar and eggs over here.) 

We got out our fall decorations on Friday. We were supposed to get them out Thursday, but we (Joe) were dealing with the tree that had fallen in our yard. After dinner Thursday, Joe offered to get the decorations out, and I was APPALLED! I was like -- Joe, you don't just get the decorations out. You GET THE DECORATIONS OUT. You don't just put them out willy nilly as fast as you can at 8:04 p.m. You open the bins, you take your time, you enjoy putting your decorations out. If you know what I mean, you know what I mean. 

A perfect example of embracing this holiday season is my sister-in-law Alex. She is married to my brother (also named Alex), and they are expecting a baby the week before Thanksgiving. They also live in Florida, so they won't be traveling to see family in West Virginia for any holidays this year. The Alexes and Joe, Bert, and I were caravanning (not a word) to West Virginia a couple weeks ago for Alex's baby shower, and we stopped at Chick-Fil-A to eat. We were eating in our cars with the windows rolled down between us, and my sister-in-law Alex mentioned they were listening to Christmas music. My eyes got wide and my mouth dropped open in a huge smile, and I was just looking back and forth between the Alexes and Joe. Alex said that since this trip was essentially their holiday trip this year, she wanted to make it festive and enjoy the music she'd normally listen to if she were making her Thanksgiving or Christmas trips home. YES. (For the record, Joe is not a huge fan of Christmas music. I know, right? He says there are only like 20 good Christmas songs -- I'm like dude, there are 20 good songs sung by Nat King Cole ALONE -- and he only wants to hear them the week of Christmas. What a Scrooge! That is clearly the opposite of me, so we decided to compromise by listening to every single Christmas song ever sung for at least the month before Christmas. :) To be fair about Joe, once, when we were first dating, I remarked how pretty everyone's Christmas lights were, and Joe replied -- and I quote -- "Christmas lights really drive up the power bill." That same Joe just had the idea to buy a bunch of orange lights and string them up outside for Halloween, so there's hope for him yet!) Alex also told me she's had her decorations out since August, and I'm like LEAN IN, Alex. For real. 

I know people have their personal beliefs on how much is too much and how soon is too soon, and it's not the same for everyone. But I think one thing we can all agree on is if any year has ever needed any kind of magic, it's 2020. This year has sucked. We've all spent much too much time worrying about the health of our grandparents, small children, relatives with preexisting condition, and unborn babies; too much time not seeing each other; and too much time stuck at home. If ever there was a reason to find a reason to make something special, it's this year. 

So guys, seriously, light all the candles. Watch all the episodes of The Twilight Zone. (Then watch them again.) Bake all the treats. There's no such thing as "too much." 

May your days be merry and bright. 

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