Monday, January 2, 2012

Folded Up and Packed Away

December is a beast if its' own making. It felt like it's own zip code within the limits of 2011. The holidays are both good and bad that way: sugar abounds, workouts devolve, merriment seeps in, and truth be told, my sentimental self comes to the forefront. I sing a lot... and watch Christmas movies like an addict. I had decorations up extra early and felt the flooding joy of being as tall as our Charlie Brown Tree, a prize from Tricia's migration west. The tree endured three weeks of tugging from a 14 month old. Some of the ornaments didn't fair as well. 

dig baby M cozied up to Nancy

Early in the month, D called my attention to the solstice, so it happened to be more in my mental calendar this year. The promise of daylight growing rather than shrinking as a result of how our planet moves in the sky affects us all. And long, long ago, before we created the great stories and traditions of our religions, we had the sheer simple belief that the sun stopped and a great shift took place every year at this time. I found an affinity with that silent patience of watching the night sky over and over again. I longed for the slowness of that era in mankind when, I like to imagine, we had time to dream and discover and wonder at nature and to establish the science to define it. I wonder more at my iphone these days and the information bombardment that comes with this contemporary lifestyle. But as the solstice brought longer days to the horizon, I remembered we are all just living beings riding on the back of this planet with no control over what will happen. We are beautiful creative creatures really good at shaping our stories and creating our reality while the world rotates around the sun.

Miss M conjured true excitement mid-December in her commitment to walk. She casually exited our bedroom like it was any old Saturday. I did a breathless double take. She has been paying tribute to John Wayne ever since and each day she amazes me with her development and speed. Today she walked all the way out of Whole Foods on her own after lunch.

A new perspective came to me in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I more intensely felt the joys and sorrows that the holidays bring and more wholly believed in the spirit of the season; in "goodwill towards men." The quote from the advent calendar that resonated with me most this year was:

"Christmas is a time when you get homesick – even when you're home."

Christmas Eve 2011
Nothing is more bittersweet than to ponder the delightful holiday memories of childhood while watching new little ones wonder at the symbols and decorations of the season. I find it is a strange juxtaposition that the more we age and sag, the more the holiday commands a sense of childlike abandon.

They say viewing the holidays through the eyes of a child makes things more magical. I can see how that is true but I believe the vibrancy this year had more to do with trying to keep my heart open; trying to chase down those dreams and experiences I longed for as a child. The sentiment of traditions, those I grew up with and those I want miss M to experience, etched deeper in to my heart. We did Zoo lights for the first time with friends, which was much more impressive than I ever imagined. D rode the carousel with miss M and the other kids. Watching that was enough to make my day. 

We (and by "we" i mean "me") also experienced the sheer exhilaration of designing, baking, building, and decorating our first of many Gingerbread houses. I was beside myself excited. One of the joys of being a parent is that you get to help design someone’s experiences and pass along traditions they will come to hold on to like the reigns of a horse drawn carriage that moves with their life. I hope miss M relishes in the magic. Christmas Eve was one of the best in recent years. The Rodgers did an unbelievable job hosting with a house full of people and a tree the size of a small country. It was loud and chaotic and fabulously fun. Then we headed south to the ever welcoming Harris house for Christmas day. 
The last week of the month brought a visit from Andy’s cousin. She came with the promise only a teenager can posses. She carried her manners like a badge of honor and dipped her toe in the possibility of college life. We both went along to tour different universities with her. I relished in all that was headed her way: the joy of knowing the chapter in a life called “College” and all that it does to open your eyes to the world around you. The friends you make stay with you for a lifetime, the things you learn help shape you professionally, and the philosophy you adapt becomes part of who you are as you shift in to adulthood. That is how I was indoctrinated and I continue to idealize the opportunity. My excitement grew for her as she tasted the freedom headed her way. It, like a new year, brings a host of possibilities. It is a great moment in your life when you turn 18 and a variety of paths are laid out in front of you as the beginning of the journey that will become the story of your life. You begin to lay your childhood down and move forward with the power of more choice. Silently I reminisced about traveling to Tucson with my dad to visit U of A, which ironically we really didn't see too much of; on that trip though we stopped at Biosphere 2. The dessert seemed like such a different place to me and my dad kept asking, “Do you know why it’s called Biosphere 2?” It’s #2 because we are living in the original Biosphere: the earth. That was the only college tour I took. I longed for the change of environment, the distance and warmth Tucson offered, the proximity to my dad. I longed to become a decision-making adult version of me. U of A was the only school I applied to and I did an early app. I marvel at that fact now.

We finished the week in the mountains. I longed for the reset feeling I seem to experience when I’m in the hills. Sleep on Thursday night was a beast. Anxiety set in and I found myself returning to the learned lesson of counting my blessings, being thankful rather than feeding the negative. When that comfort finally rested my head to pillow, I was obnoxiously woken by the screeching of a carbon monoxide alarm and the neurosis that we would all wake up comfortably dead the next day. D assured me it was just a bug, but I felt the anxiety of nothing more than the responsibility of being a good parent. It took a few more squeals of the alarm for me to unplug and ditch the battery as recommended and demonstrated by Mr. Maillet minutes earlier. Cousin M went skiing on her own the next morning and D joined her for afternoon runs. I hung with miss M and shopped a bit. I managed to squeeze a run in late in the day. The valley a welcome change, the air crisp and fresh as night began to set in. My energy reset. Change of pace to bring change of character.

The next morning I woke up to the sound of wind outside. A strong powerful, scary wind that had me half asleep imagining being blown away on a run like a tiny ant with no real density against the forces of nature. It was New Years Eve and we hit the road in "snow and blowing snow", making it up the pass, it felt like, just in time to beat mother nature. Coming down the other side, sometimes in zero visibility, and then it cleared up entirely to another warm Denver day. Breakfast at Racine’s was our last stand before cousin M went to the airport. She had a peanut butter and chocolate pancake stack; opting for the sweet newness of something she had never ordered before. I continued gluttonizing with a bacon pancake covered in maple syrup (yeah it's true: everything is better with bacon).

At home, I got things ready for the Eve celebrations. I ran back to the grocery store in the wind to pick up another Serrano pepper for the shrimp ceviche I was making. I considered what it was I wanted to achieve in the coming year (which is a whole other post). Last night I took down the holiday decorations, wiped the mantel clean, and vacuumed the floor. December and 2011 were packed away.

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