Looking out the barn door last winter.
It seems that every Christmas brings with it the same reflections: why do we go to so much trouble? Did we really need to decorate THIS much? And the baking! The day seems to come and go, and we're left with the realisation that the Grinch came to: Christmas comes all the same, whether you make yourself crazy with preparations or not. My parents always host my siblings, our spouses/partners, and children for Christmas dinner, and usually a sleepover of at least one night. Mom loves having us all there, but is usually exhausted by the time we leave.
We have talked for years about having a "simple" Christmas, and indeed, things have gotten much simpler over the years as we've curbed our gift-giving out of respect from all our financial situations, and for the fact that my parents now have 8 adult "children" (including spouses), and 6 grandchildren.
So, this past summer, I took the bull by the horns. I called a local couple who have a bed-and-breakfast, and booked it for the weekend of December 10-12. It seemed so far away at the time, but the weekend is almost upon us now! Tomorrow, my entire family will descend on this farm, to take up residence in a log cabin. We'll bring food, warm clothes for a sleigh ride, cards and board games, and our stellar conversational skills to keep us busy. Oh, and of course, a healthy supply of alcohol. We'll also bring a little spruce tree with us, and on Saturday I'll work with all the kids to create decorations for it. Doesn't it just call to mind "Little House in the Big Woods"?
As far as gifts go, we'll each bring 4 Christmas tree ornaments, one for each couple, to take home as a memento of our weekend together. I am reminded lately that time is fleeting, and that nothing remains the same. Seize each moment to cherish your family. Turn off the television/computer/video game/gadget that distracts you from looking at your loved ones' faces. Study their laughter, observe their hand gestures, appreciate what makes them unique and special. Embrace your family's special brand of dysfunction, and revel in its familiarity.
I am reminded of a traditional Ulster song I've loved and performed for going on twenty years now:
"Here's a health to your company, and one to my lass!
Let's drink and be merry all out of one glass,
Let's drink and be merry, all grief to refrain,
For we may or might never all meet here again."
I'll be back next week with photos. Enjoy your weekend!