I’ll admit it. I love this time of year. When the days grow shorter, the air becomes crisp, and the smell of a wood burning stove permeates from house to house, I’m like a child, filled with excitement and unbridled enthusiasm. It’s the beginning of the holiday season.
From October to January, I am giddy. More so than usual even. I can’t help myself! I love everything about the holidays. I love things that probably drive most people nuts. I love the decorating, the gift buying, gift wrapping…baking, cooking…family gatherings. As soon as Halloween ends, on November 1st, I bring down the Thanksgiving decorations from the attic. It was a good run, Witches.
And then, after Thanksgiving…like, that night people, the Thanksgiving decorations come down, get boxed up, and stored away for another year.
Then, it’s the fun stuff that I wait all year long for. The garland. The stockings. Turning my mantle into a Martha Stewart fantasy.
Once the house is decorated, I sit. I look around. I cry. It’s almost Christmas. I am literally filled with joy at the thought of my family coming over after Christmas Eve mass, for my annual party. The house will be filled with the smell of a baked ham, and my cousins will be trying to steal the Italian cookies, from my great-grandmother’s recipe, that I make every year. There will be music playing, drinks pouring, and laughter. There will be so much food, and I’ll vow not to make that much next year, but I can’t help myself. My cousins and I will share memories of Christmases past. We’ll remember my grandparents, and all the Christmases we spent at their house.
And when everyone says their goodbyes, and it’s just my husband and me, we’ll sit on the sofa for a minute and catch our breath before the magic of the night begins, and the two hours that are sure to follow – putting out the milk and cookies, leaving the reindeer food and knowing that in a few more hours, our kids will be up and running down the stairs at the crack of Christmas dawn. And yes, even at 17, 15 and 12, they will still run down the stairs, through the kitchen and into the living room to see their oh-so-heavy stockings, filled to the brim with gifts & treats.
But for right now, I am thinking of Thanksgiving, and the homemade stuffing I’ll be making in a few weeks…and how much I love the smell of a baking turkey, and making the perfect gravy. The kids will go outside and find the prettiest pinecones, and I’ll print off labels with my guest’s names on them. The dining room table will be an over-the-top feast with my butternut squash served in a hollowed out pumpkin. The linen napkins will be placed in a antique brushed leaf napkin holder, and set in the middle of the china, provided by my mom, so many years ago.
My husband will say Grace. He’ll ask for blessings on our family, on the bounty before us, and give honor to those who’ve gone before us – he’ll name my Papa, my Nana…and no doubt he’ll add my Uncle John, who died from Parkinson’s Disease, and his Uncle Jimmy, a larger-than-life, extraordinary human being, who recently passed as well.
And within fifteen minutes, we’ll be stuffed. We’ll be pushing away from the table with full bellies. Until the empty plates and platters are replaced by homemade apple pie, pumpkin, and blueberry pie…and of the course the obligatory store bought pecan pie because nobody likes it but me. And the vanilla bean ice cream. And the pumpkin bread pudding.
I spend days making these pies, days preparing for this meal, and then, just like that, it’s over.
And while the day drifts into the past, and we move on towards Christmas, it’s the memories that will remain.