Saturday, November 29, 2008

The holiday season

The holiday season is officially in full swing around here. As evidenced by the pictures in previous posts, Thanksgiving is past, and the Christmas season has arrived.

The tree is up, and as I type I can see it twinkling in front of me. It's filled, as it is every year, with ornaments that are really just symbols and memories, as that's how I like it. Nothing on the tree matches, but each ornament reminds me of someone or of some experience. There are so many given to me by Carolyn, Susan, and Corina over the years; there is the one from my first trip with Ryan (to the southwest; we traveled well together and I thought "well that's a good sign!"); there are "baby's first Christmas" ones with the date 2003 on them. The list is long - we can't fit all of the ornaments on the tree anymore - and happy.

Tomorrow I'll take down the Tibetan prayer flags (I don't know what they say, so I imagine that they are prayers for peace: personal peace and world peace) and put up the lights. Tessa is gleeful that our home is becoming so decorated, and wore her Santa hat with pride today.

I am intensely grateful for these small pleasures. These rituals and traditions are so important to me in the holiday season, and they keep me grounded in the middle of the consumerist drive that has taken over so much of the holiday season.

This year, I won't be much of a consumer. We are doing everything we can to cut back our holiday spending, and we hope and pray that we don't offend anyone in the process. I'll be baking and sharing the baked goods; there will be small hand made items; there will be time shared with friends and family. What there will NOT be is giant piles of expensive presents under the tree, but this is a-okay with me. Really and truly it is. I'm being forced - and feeling happy about it - to pay attention to the love and peace and festivities of the family season, and not pay attention to the compulsion to shop, shop, shop.

So I will take time to visit holiday carousels, to read "A Child's Christmas in Wales" aloud with the family, to drive around seeing the holiday lights, to go ice skating, to make fancy cookies, to watch an old holiday movie, to share wine with a friend. We will feast on Christmas day with family, we will attend Christmas Eve service, and hopefully we will be filled with gratitude all the while.

As for me, I'm grateful to be alive. There's an edge to saying that, because I still feel the fragility of life much more closely than I wish to. My every day is interrupted by thoughts of cancer, and all of the zillion side effects that I continue to experience. But the silver lining is that I approach every holiday like a little kid. I'm filled with wonder that I get to drag a tree inside my house, bake cookies, and sing songs. I'm grateful to be alive, and that is saying something. It's bigger than it sounds.

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