Monday, December 26, 2011
Seems people are still checking out my blog, over 400 hits since my last post. Got busy this summer, and then Fall hit, big time (as many of you know and felt), and now that the holidays are over and, well, since my wife keeps saying "you should be blogging," here we go again.
I'll start my new thrust of dedication to my blog, while I assemble new thoughts to share with you, by posting my latest holiday newsletter, our annual Cunningham Christmas Chronicle...as those of you who celebrate by decorating and gifting and sending cards, traditional efforts can be fun...really!
We decided to take the holiday pressure off ourselves this year and commit to doing everything at the last minute. In fact, if there's anything we can do after Christmas, for Christmas, we are there.
I had that plan working just fine, until Theresa's sister, Mary, called to see about coming up, with her friend Dorothy, to each get their Christmas trees. We make an annual pilgrimage to a local purveyor of prickly poking, needle dropping flora. They wanted to come up a week earlier than we would normally go...it did fit with our weekend schedule, but would set us up for getting something done ahead of time...we sighed and agreed. Of course, that meant we were going to have to fill that next weekend with something non-holiday related, but were able to put that thought off to another last minute decision and believed were happily behind again! We knew it would be a full day.
Although Mary and Dorothy historically take about 6 minutes each to find a tree (once Mary pointed to one as we were driving in, “That one!” We could have slugged her), I knew we could count on Theresa to soak up the rest of the day, checking out each and every tree on the 85 acre farm. In the past, as you know, we've closed tree farms waiting for Theresa to pick out that perfect trimmer. And I don't mean by sunset. One year the guy actually had to ask us to leave as his wife was calling him to come home as they were leaving for Midnight Mass. Upon arrival this year, I set off with Mary and Dorothy to help them cut down and drag back two trees, while I watched Theresa disappear into the forest on her quest for the perfect tree.
True to history, Mary and Dorothy were espying two lovely firs within minutes of arrival and as I was looking at their possible selection with them (you know, too tall, too thin, crooked trunk, no needles, all brown needles, is that a dead bird in there?), I found Theresa standing next to me. I told her I'd be with her in a minute to help her look (I get to spend hours answering the, “Does this tree make me look too big?” questions), as soon as the ladies told me which to cut down. She said, “No, no need to look...this one!,” as she pointed to a tree six feet away.
What you should be envisioning now is something akin to a biblical scene of massive white clouds in the sky parting, huge bright shafts of light screaming down towards earth and angels flying back and forth singing strains of “Hallelujah!” And, yes, trumpets, harps, any other heavenly musical instruments you can think of...maybe even an accordion...it was that special. Years of tree hunting with Theresa flashed before my eyes. I was shaken (not stirred, that's another story). “Wha?,” was about the only thing I could come up with. We were done within twenty minutes. Mary and Dorothy were so surprised, as they had brought books, kindles, knitting, and wine for their usual wait. They just pointed to the closest trees to them and, as though surrendering to the moment, each said, “That one.”
As we were dragging the trees to our cars, I could hear the farm owner in the background, talking to his staff, “Something's off...usually this time of year there's a small crowd, some poking and pulling on every tree, others just sitting around waiting for them...Christmas just doesn't feel like Christmas anymore.” I felt bad for him, but more-so for us, as now we had nothing to do with the rest of the day. Mary came to the rescue, “Let's go to lunch.” “Ooo,” I cooed, “and let's find someplace that has notoriously slow service...that will be fun!' Turns out the restaurant staff was so pleasant and so attentive that we soon found ourselves back in our cars heading home.
Back home, as I looked at the tree standing in a pail of water on the deck, I noted I now had the afternoon free of chores. I caved into putting the tree into the stand and putting it the living room. Kevin helped hoist it in and it went into place on the first attempt. I cut the binding cord and it fell out beautifully. As the branches swayed into place, filling out the space, I turned to Theresa and said, “Great, now what am I going to do? It doesn't need to be trimmed, moved, reset or balanced. No ropes or weights to keep it standing. I guess I'm forced to put the lights on it!” I couldn't believe we were getting this far ahead. Then, to add insult to injury, all of the light strings I had packed away last year worked...and they weren't tangled. I was miserable with success. But, I knew we still had to decorate the thing, so we decided to put that off for another day.
That other day turned out to be the next day. As I came into the house from work, there was Theresa gleefully placing ornaments on the tree. “What are you doing?” She apologized, but said that her doctor's appointment was canceled and she had the time. “Had the time? We were supposed to be filling time so that we'd be feeling the Christmas pressure!” I was seething...we were getting ahead of schedule, yet again. My hands were clenched with stored up energy...I rushed to the kitchen, needing to knead something. I pulled out butter and flour and all sort of other edibles and pushed out 62 dozen cut Christmas cookies.
As I was pulling the last batch out of the oven, Matt bounded in and said, “Need help decorating those cookies?” Before I could sit him down and talk to him about the merits of being patient and planning, and how not rushing into situations is a good thing, he had many dozens spread on the table with icing bag in hand and within hours finished them all off, with colored frostings, sugars and sprinkles. Our hopes were dashed for a last minute baking frenzy. I settled into the nearest sofa, wine in hand, racking my brain for something that I could drag out to fill up the advancing gap of free time before the holidays. “I know,” I shouted, “Christmas cards...we haven't done Christmas cards.” Theresa twisted up her face, glancing at me, “I addressed and signed them all yesterday...sorry, but I was on call and waiting. I needed something to do.” I looked at her, “Don't tell me you've got your Christmas shopping done!” “Okay,” she said, “I won't tell you that. Maybe you should have another glass of wine.”
Faced with time to go out to holiday happenings in the area, time for gatherings with family and friends, time for quiet moments and reflection on life and the holidays, a relaxed Christmas Eve and Day with plenty of time for gifts and goodies, I could only think...time for relaxation, reflection and spending time with others?
What have these holidays come to?