Work is finished for the week. The turkey and ham are thawing in the refrigerator. And the pies are in the oven, filling the house with mouthwatering smells. Tomorrow the counters will be filled with more food than we can eat. And for the next month, we will revolve through a seemingly never-ending celebration of friends and family.
My family has never been big on traditions. We trade off holidays with in-laws and no two years ever look exactly the same. From the time I was young, someone in my family worked somewhere where the holidays were the busiest time of the year. My mom was the Postmaster in our small town - and had her busiest days in November and December. My brother works retail and barely sees daylight during this time of year. I'm now working on a rotation schedule to assess ER patients for mental health issues and traffic only increases during the holidays. Some of my husband's family has duties that don't always take a break for Thanksgiving or Christmas Day.
So we've learned to be flexible. We gather when we can. In smaller groups and gatherings when and where it works the best. Sometimes we have traditional fare. Sometimes we order a pizza or throw a steak on the grill or fix enchiladas. We've sliced turkey and eaten pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving and we've been on the ski slopes on Christmas day. We've had huge family gatherings and intimate times with friends. Santa always finds us wherever we end up or comes a day early or late if we make a special request.
This year we are having a traditional Thanksgiving at my house with my husband's family. Then we will start making Christmas rounds in a couple of weeks in order to carve out time for various configurations of family. This year we may be done by Christmas and have a breather the week after, but sometimes our celebrating goes right on through the New Year. More than once, my immediate family of four has found ourselves alone on Christmas day. Sometimes we stay in our pajamas and watch movies all day long. Sometimes we drive around and look at Christmas lights. Sometimes we hang out with friends who find themselves in similar circumstances. This year, we may take a mini in-town vacation to see some of the local Christmas wonders. No matter what - we enjoy the day.
And as Thanksgiving Day 2010 lurks around the corner - I want to be a bit trite and list some of the things I'm thankful for this holiday season.
Family that flexes and bends and reconfigures to meet new challenges and have new adventures every year. People that have known me all my life and will know me to the end, that share genes and habits that I see in my children, that can sit with me in silence because the stories are known by heart.
Friends that enrich my life, challenge me, support me, stand with me, celebrate the triumphs and mourn the defeats. Friends that will pick my kids up with a simple phone call and that are part of the village it takes to raise my daughters. Couple friends that indulge in adult beverages and conversation when even the village doesn't seem enough. Kindred spirits to share with and laugh with and love.
Two amazing daughters who are growing by leaps and bounds and who have the markings of incredible young women. Fierce and tender, compassionate and zealous, sweet and sassy. They are the loves of my life and the reason I keep putting one foot in front of another.
A husband who is truly my soul-mate. Who loves me unfailingly, who holds me up when I don't think I can stand, who is my biggest cheering section and my support system all in one. A man who preferred daughters over sons, who can fix an engine or put tiny earrings into little ears, who teaches his daughters to fish and navigate by the stars, and who isn't afraid to fix a meal or mop a floor. He has given his life for ours and we love him with all our hearts.
A career that is brand new and fulfilling beyond imagination. I LOVE what I'm doing every day. I get to see the divine wrapped in flesh and hold space for the suffering of others as they face unimaginable odds and daily put one foot in front of the other. I am grateful beyond words to be a witness to the life journey of others. And listening to their stories and feeling their pain humbles me and makes my heart overflow with gratitude for the life I have.
Tomorrow I'll sit with some of my family and eat way too much. We will laugh and talk and celebrate. And that celebration will continue on through the next month. But the things I've seen along the way this year on this journey home to myself make me more thankful than I have ever been before.