Scott’s dad and stepmom joined us here for Christmas, arriving on the 24th for dinner and staying until the morning of the 27th. It was a good visit and I could tell they enjoyed being in our home. It’s been a tough year all around and the fact that we could be together enjoying the holiday was grace from the hand of a loving and gracious God. It didn’t have to work out that way, but it did, and I’m grateful. We had our middle son and our youngest son with us, and to me that was very special. You don’t take that for granted.
One new tradition (I hope it becomes a new tradition) is that Middle Son read A Child’s Christmas in Wales to us in the morning while the troops were assembling. It’s been a few years since I’d heard it and I forgot how much fun it is and how many echoes come back to me of Christmases past through that poem/story. The picture here is the cover of the version I first encountered when I was 9, given to me by my aunt (I think) the year we spent Christmas at my grandparents’ home in Toronto.
Ongoing traditions were the letter from Santa Claus to the boys–Santa likes to let the boys know he’s staying in touch with their growth and interests and also likes to remind the boys that Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus, a point he tends to worry might be lost in the process of gift giving and receiving. As to the gifts, we have a tradition that gifts may be routed to our sons from familiar characters in books.
My father started that tradition with us when I was a teen, and suddenly started getting Christmas presents not just labeled “From Santa” or “From Grandma” but also, “From Gandalf” and “From Thorin Oakenshield” and so forth.
Cooking Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner has become a source of joy to me, so for me the holiday peaked as folks sat down to Christmas dinner. That’s when I could relax and enjoy the company, the wine, and the meal. At that point the holiday needs no more tending, but spreads itself out into feasting and joy.
Scott and I didn’t get each other gifts but our plan was, if the budget allowed, we’d get out of town for a couple of days. Youngest son went with a friend’s youth group to a three-day concert/convention type thing, so we took advantage of that window of time to drive down to Nashville where we visited a used bookstore, a funky cookware store, and had a lovely dinner at the Yellow Porch. The next day we took Highway 24 to Sewanee to check out the University of the South there. All I knew is that there was a lovely Gothic church on their campus and that it was in a “mountain” environment.
Our family lived for ten formative years in an idyllic mountain resort town (after staying every chance we got on vacations and weekends at Scott’s grandparent’s cabin up there) thus a part of us is always chasing that experience.
The college campus was indeed lovely with a fantastic bookstore where we spent quite a long time browsing and reading. We drove all over, enjoying the set apart, mountain environment and the breathtaking views over the ridge, and then had lunch in the town at a place called the Smoke House where there was some serious country cooking happening, then went back to the campus and walked all around, especially enjoying spending time in the beautiful All Saints Chapel (beautiful Gothic church with gorgeous stained glass windows) and Chapel of the Apostles (an example of a beautiful modern worship space).
Then we headed back to Nashville, stopped at Trader Joe’s to do some grocery shopping and headed home.
All the way down and all the way back, I read aloud from the book my reading group is reading right now, Marley and Me. This brought back fond memories of the Lab we had when we were first married, Jake, and we laughed a lot together as we read about this dog and his family. It also helped us appreciate the dog we now have, who is an angel compared with Marley and also compared with Jake. But rather than spend a second night away from home, we decided we’d been away from the dog and cat long enough, and came home, excited to see them.
Youngest got home from his concert/conference today, bubbly and excited about some experiences and insights, and still sorting through others.