On a Winter Rest…


Today is December 21, Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. It will be Christmas in just a couple of days.

Coming off open heart surgery in late September, I promised myself two things about Christmas 2023.

First, I would not overdo it. I would not stress about gifts or decorating or baking and canning. I would do what I could and thank the Sweet Baby Jesus that there are no actual requirements for me to do anything.

Second, I would not just try to get through December, but I would enjoy my Christmas. I would take in the decorations and lights. I would appreciate any Christmas gestures made in my direction without feeling I had to reciprocate. I would enjoy my family and friends. I would listen to all the happy Christmas songs from all my favorite movies, and not have Merle Haggard’s “If We Make it Through December” on a loop.

We put up the tree and some outdoor lights after Thanksgiving. There are stockings on the mantel, but they will remain empty. There are a few scented candles that will remain unlit. I didn’t send out any Christmas cards.

I didn’t bake any sourdough loaves or can jam for gifting to my co-workers. But the other three women on my team and I went to breakfast this morning and I paid for their meals. They seemed to appreciate it more than any trinket I might have wrapped and given them.

Last weekend, we had a Christmas lunch with my brother and sister and their families. We had a nice visit with those who could attend. No pressure to those who could not. My brother declared that there would be no gift exchange, so we respected his wishes. While we may have implied he was a Scrooge, it sure took the pressure off my sister and me to come up with something super special for him.

My husband and I are leaving for South Texas tomorrow, to spend Christmas with kids and grandkids. Tonight we will have a simple dinner with my little sister’s family. She and I always exchange presents. Since our parents passed away it has been hard to let go of old traditions. We try to make up for our loss by giving each other meaningful gifts. It is more like a competition, really. I typically spend Q4 trying to find just the perfect thing. The unspoken rule is, “she who makes the other cry hardest wins.” I punted this year and got her something I know she can use on our trip to Ireland in May. It isn’t sentimental, it is useful. I told myself that a sentimental gift has an initial impact, but a useful gift has longevity. The truth is I simply did not have the bandwidth this year for my usual overachievement. I know that. I also know it is going to irritate me no end if she gives me something that makes me cry.

A new tradition for my husband and kids has been a Christmas trip in lieu of gift giving. But, having used up all my PTO for heart surgery, we are punting and I had to resort to gifts. As I write this, knowing I’ll be driving south tomorrow morning, I still have two gifts to not only buy, but to determine what they are. I’ll get them, it’ll be fine. I am blessed to have two of the most generous kids on the planet who want nothing more than my company. Well, maybe my cooking as well.

I really just need the winter to rest. It has been a pretty mild December so far, but when we return from our weekend with the kids, the winter weather will move in. Forecasts are calling for a colder than average winter, with higher than average precipitation. My recovering heart does not tolerate cold air very well, so this will be a forced hibernation.

I’m looking forward to it.

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