MY FAVORITE TIME OF YEAR
Last year’s family pictures was typical for Texas. Outside. Sweaters. Christmas décor. 94 degrees outside. This is what we have come to know & understand as part of our Texas lives. The season of fall skips over us. I kick & scream about it every year (so maybe I haven’t exactly come to know & understand), but this is the lot I’ve been given until the day I decide to move to cooler parts. It’s why pictures this year had me racing to Old Navy on the day of, hunting for fleece blankets, scarves, & gloves. It was 34 degrees. Literally a 60-degree difference from last year. Thankfully, the Lord showed his infinite mercy on our picture-taking needs & released the sun to shine on our behalf.
This is my favorite time of year. Specifically November & December are my favorite two months. Growing up, there were all sorts of special events sprinkled through the weeks. I played the violin through high school, & I loved rehearsing Christmas music for our annual concert. Our school had a fireplace by the stairwell that led to the orchestra room, & when it was cold, there would be a fire, & it was like being at Hogwarts. Except instead of capes, we had letterman jackets & plaid skirts.
The holidays are the only time the extended family on my mom’s side gets together. My mom’s twin sister has four kids—3 boys & a girl—all older than me, but the girl, Sara, is like my older sister & I copied her every move like a cat when we were growing up. If she ordered mustard on her sandwich, I ordered mustard on my sandwich. If she switched to mayo, I suddenly remembered I hated mustard & switched to mayo, too. All together, there were around ten of us kids back in the day before we grew up & started creating families of our own.
We trade off between my parents’ house & my aunt’s out in Coleman, Texas. We play pool, watch football, & sit by the fire or mingle in the kitchen with a glass of wine. We stay up late, usually bundled up outside with a beer in one hand & for some, a cigarette in the other. We listen to country music or hits from the 60’s. I’m always one of the first to fall asleep. The ones who stay up the latest sleep in unless there’s an opportunity to hunt in the morning. Other morning risers gather in the kitchen to start the coffee. This used to make me feel lame, but now I like being on of the first ones up.
Everyone in my family is a foodie, & the feast put together could make my mouth water this instant. We’ve done it all together. Crab, corn, & potatoes—Beef tenderloin—Breakfast tacos—Self-caught fish fry. There’s always that table at family Christmas gatherings that houses the desserts. It’s there for post-dinners & late night snacking & between-meal-picking & first breakfasts. Ours is always covered. Pies. Fudge. Cake. One year when Collins was maybe one & a half, I looked over to see her perched up on a couch, leaning over the table & sampling every single dessert with her fingers. Even when she realized she was being watched, she just kept sampling like the daughter I’ve raised her to be.
I honestly can’t believe Thanksgiving is a week from today. While this is my favorite time of year, I’m also now the mom—meaning I’m in charge of making the magic happen. Ensue panic attack at any moment now. While I look back at details of past holidays with sweet nostalgia, the reason they’re beautiful memories isn’t because someone remembered to get LED lights for the house that year or because the paper napkins matched the paper plates or because there was Christmas Spirit diffusing in every room. I look back on those seasons with gratitude because nothing else seemed to matter except being together. It was the exact opposite of what my instinct is to do as the mom in charge. I never sensed a to-do list taking priority. There wasn’t a host of highly important, stressful decisions like Should we do Elf on the Shelf or is that ruining this generation on top of being super creepy? And I know that’s just part of being a kid—not seeing the work behind the scenes. But it’s also a solid reminder of what I’m aiming for here as the mom. The relationships. The gathering. The slowness. The cold country air. The hugs & the stories.
We get to choose how we approach our holidays. We get to choose how we start our mornings & how we fill our days. We get to decide. I’m all for the fun & the decorations & the jazz, but I want to be intentional to the nth degree this season. This is my mantra: People Over Things. Present Over Perfect.