A friend and I were Chipotle-ing, talking Thanksgiving twists and turns—of college kids zooming in and out of our homes too quickly and rogue relations popping into town and offspring becoming adults with ideas of their own about how to keep holidays. What a mess we make this time of year, we agreed, despite our best intentions for peace in the kitchen and goodwill to kin.
And Thanksgiving is small potatoes, a dress rehearsal for The Big One, which is fast approaching—my neighbors’ fully decked-out houses don’t lie. (Or do they? I tossed our front porch pumpkin only last night, but that’s another blog post.) Brace yourself, my lunch buddy said, because the hits are gonna keep on coming.
Hold the phone, I told her, I’m going to need more Diet Coke. Refill accomplished, we talked and ate and talked some more about the annual search for winter’s white whale: the perfectly uncomplicated Christmas. And then maybe that second Diet Coke went to my head, because I found myself leaning in and saying something like: Listen, sister, it happens year after year, us getting all worked up about whether Christmas in the flesh will measure up. Spoiler alert: it won’t. But I’ll be darned if I don’t plan to enjoy every over-extended ounce of it. Because what’s about to happen is, all in all, pretty fantastic.
I let the word roll off my tongue one more time to make sure I’d heard myself right. Fantastic.
We laughed at ourselves. What a silly and utterly modern thing, to sit and complain about too many gifts to wrap and too much food to prepare and too many parties to attend. Hello?
And so right there, over a burrito bowl, the battle began, the war I am willing to wage for the sake of the feast. Or, as the case may be, a series of feasts, from now through Twelfth Night. Honest to goodness gatherings are hard to come by in a culture that doesn’t typically bother with them. And I, for one, will fight for a proper feast, all (insert what you like here) else be damned.
Admittedly, on one hand, the ritual of gathering during the holidays feels compulsory, like middle school P.E—yes, we’re going to have to change clothes, and someone is probably going to get her feelings hurt. On the other hand, praise be we’re committed, if half-heartedly, to doing something outside our own little nuclear sets. Because one could make an argument—I suppose I am making an argument—that the breaking of bread with friends or family or strangers (any warm body will do, really) is holier than a whole hymnal of hymns. It’s pretty fantastic, this raising of glasses. Even when the booking of babysitters and the scrubbing of floors and the baking of pies present as a pain in the plaid skirt.
Celebrating, I’ve noticed, is never a nuisance to the very young. Children’s exquisite brand of love renders them wonderfully blind to the holidays’ flaws—ours, theirs, their great aunt’s congealed salad. I could learn a trick or two from the footed pajama crowd.
Give me wonder, or give me February! Never mind that I’ve seen the coming and going of four dozen Christmases. The years don’t dull the shine; they merely lend my Christmases a lovely patina. One season sits stacked upon the one before, and so on. Lord willing, in my lifetime I’ll log piles of feasts, in all their glory, chinked—nay, cracked—as they are, as we are.
My strategy is to take up arms for every last one of them.