Sunday, May 12, 2013

Family Times/Ties/Matters

Heavy-handed TV show referencing. Also, ignore that it is May. This post was drafted up a long time ago, and there is too much to just scrap.

So...I love Christmas. I make this abundantly clear to anyone who will listen the entire month of December. I love the music. I love the lights. I love the stories. I love the baked goods. I love the smells. I love the snow. I love all of the sparkly things. I love the prospect of being with my family. I love getting presents. I love plotting and giving the perfect presents. I love the neighborhood parties. I love the mystery and the magic and the formal regal-ness, and the kitschy-ness. I love wearing sweaters and onesie sleepers and drinking hot cocoa in front of fireplaces.

But, can I just say that so many of my merry-making talents are wasted at Christmastime because I am single? I would stuff such a great stocking for my significant other! I would be so good at keeping secrets and surprising them on Christmas morning! I would make such a wonderful Christmas breakfast and wake them up all gently with delightful scents wafting in to them! All of it is wasted.

I mostly kid, but with two sisters now married, I think this is really the first Christmas I felt the pang of not having someone just for me. It wasn't a huge ache, it was not in any way constant, but the nigglings of wanting someone in my life on special occasions besides just my family made themselves known for the first time in a truly conscious way. It was kind of weird, but probably about time I got feeling this way again.

I mostly ignored these slight hints by playing with my neeps and being the President of Christmas. Now in case you're confused, there was no official election process for the position, but I rule during Christmastime with the willing consent of the governed. The Mom and Dad Legislative do act as a check on some of my power, but I largely reign unopposed (with the bureaucracy of Caitlyn and Michaela doing much of the preparatory legwork while I am in absentia)

Me thinking about and planning Christmas festivities:

This year I was extra excited since this is the first Christmas Alex has spent with us - the first time he has seen our ancestral home even. And since Alex is fairly new to this whole Christmas thing, we (I) had to make it even more fantastic than normal.

This was also the first year we bought presents for just one family member/member and spouse rather than everyone getting for everyone. Yep, we've crossed that threshold and there is no going back. Except we only sort of played by the rules. I had Erica and Alex (PERFECT!), but still bought presents for Mom and Dad (of course), and my neeps. Because we're keeping favorite aunt status firmly in this corner at all costs, people. And it's really fun to by presents for little kids.

Since E&A had sickeningly adorably sappy Christmas lists full of flirtatious comments for each other, I got them tickets to see Steven Cohen, an old-fashioned magician who performs at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York so they could spend some time together on a mini vacation. Basically I'm just bragging now.

I flew in to Utah from Wisconsin a few days before Christmas (with homemade ginger cookies in my bag - I'm telling you, I get a little caught up in the Christmas month moment) and spent some time at Aislin and Justin's. I also went paragliding for the first time, but that is a story for another post. While at Aislin's, she and I both got a text message from Alex asking about what to put in Erica's stocking since our family traditionally have spouses fill each other's. Aislin's answer was fairly straight forward and helpful. Mine....well, our lists definitely overlapped in some areas. This is our conversation:

Do you see what I mean by needing a significant other of my own? Had Alex not asked me for help, I would have had all of this bottled up Christmas spirit that I hadn't been able to release in the normal way since we all bought fewer presents than normal this year. Who knows what I might have done.

Also, let us pause to appreciate Alex's wording. Their children will either laugh all the time, be really witty themselves, or roll their eyes and groan constantly. Or all three.

Anyway, I picked E&A up from the Salt Lake airport on Sunday, handed them some snacks, ginger cookies, and chapstick (Idaho is brutal to the uninitiated), and headed North listening to delightful selections of Christmas music for the next four hours (really more like 5+ since a certain someone who was navigating whose name will not be mentioned kept missing the turn off for where we were supposed to return the rental car....).

When we got home it was, well, home. I love how you can be away from somewhere for so long - or away from certain people for so long - and coming back is perfectly natural and normal. (It's kind of the way Alex has fit in to the family. It feels natural and right.) Caitlyn had gone to great lengths to put up lights outside and the house smelled wonderful and looked lovely and was stacked to the rafters with food waiting to be prepared and eaten. My family doesn't do many elaborate or extravagant things (despite what I sometimes try to encourage), so there really isn't any tangible reason why we were all so excited to be there. We tend to talk about it like it's Disneyland and a zen garden and an inspiring war memorial all wrapped in one. But it's the simple routines (almost rituals now) of gathering in the kitchen to talk and opine on random, ever-changing subjects, of helping make parts of dinner, of all sitting in fetal position as we read or watch movies, of bringing up and laughing over old stories, of asking my dad gospel or science questions, of admiring my mom's newest project, of playing board games, of sleeping in and wandering up stairs to see what's left for breakfast, of looking and smiling and randomly draping our arms around each other and saying I'm glad of you that make us all know that we belong here with these people right now and that is worth moving mountains or using all of your vacation days and flying across the country for.