Many of us have a love/hate relationship with the holiday season. Regardless of what holiday you celebrate, this time of year is notorious for ill-will, and general bad ju-ju. In efforts to balance between family, friends, and sanity, Kyle and I worked this year to ensure we kept things as calm and light-hearted as possible.
To start, Kyle and Robin left for Oklahoma City on December 9th, where Kyle was attending a class for his job. They were gone until the evening of the 19th, which left Ginger and I holding down the fort. Surprisingly, it worked really well for us all. The two extroverts left for a cross-country adventure, leaving the two introverts home to nap, watch Harry Potter movies, and order much take-out. Christmas, essentially, was on hold until our family reunited.
On the 22nd, Kyle and I were baking a batch of the most decadent peppermint brownies ever, when it occurred to us that, aside from tradition, there was no good reason not to open our presents together that evening. So, we did. We gathered around the tree and opened gifts, taking our time to laugh together, and experience everyone’s emotions and expressions with each new present. We had nowhere to be, and nothing to do but eat brownies, and it was easily the best “Christmas Morning” we’ve had in a very long time.
We spent the 23rd huddled up peacefully at home, reading our new books and playing in our new make-up, basking in the Christmas glow that was still around us. By Christmas Eve, we had the solitary fa-la-la worked through our systems, and were ready to move on to the family activities.
Which was good, because Christmas Eve is my birthday. Each year, my family lovingly makes a point of eschewing everything HO-HO-HO until we have thoroughly celebrated my birthday, complete with cake and presents. This year, however, Kyle volunteered to work Christmas morning. It’s a hold-over from our time in the Marine Corps. We learned the importance of Semper Gumby–Always Flexible–so when it comes to holidays, we understand things can’t always be a Norman Rockwell painting. We adapt and overcome. So, when Kyle is able to volunteer to work for major holidays, knowing that it means someone else can be home with his or her family, NOT having to Semper Gumby, he knows his family stands behind him in that decision. That sacrifice is what makes him a great leader, and that support is what makes it all possible. Does Little Timmy know his daddy is home Christmas morning because Sgt. Thomas is away from his family? No. And we like it that way.
As I was saying, though, December 24th is the blessed day of my birth. It was a cold afternoon in Germany when I graced this world with my presence, and as an adult, I am just enough of a brat to demand that a few hours are spent honoring, well, me. (Some day I’ll tell you my story about how I prefer birthdays to holidays, hands down. Remind me.) This year, however, with Kyle working, I saw an opportunity to have the whole family together for Christmas. So, I declared that all I wanted for my birthday this year was for us all to open presents together. And that’s exactly what we did, while munching on mouthfuls of birthday cake. It was, once again, perfect. The chaos, the hugs, the jokes and laughter, the love…I couldn’t ask for a better birthday celebration, knowing we were all there together and, because everyone had cleared the day off for my birthday, we were able to spend Christmas together, without other obligations hanging over our heads.
Of course, with Kyle gone Christmas day, I had myself a long winter’s nap. We were supposed to meet back up with my family at 10, but I wasn’t hauling my tush-can out of that gloriously warm bed. We finally rolled in around noon, the girls and I, and enjoyed spending the next few hours seeing various aunts and uncles who came to visit my Granny. My family is gigantic, so we don’t see extended members very often. For the first time, Robin realized she and my uncle Mike have the same warped sense of humor. The two of them, left unattended for too long, would certainly cause a great deal of trouble. I hope I get to see that theory tested one day.
Back home that evening, life returned to normal for us. We washed laundry, cleaned the house, and collapsed in a blissful heap.
Our last holiday hurrah was December 27th, when Kyle’s mom and her husband came over to visit. We all drank coffee well too late into the evening, and did serious damage on a German chocolate cake.
FUN FACT!! Unlike myself, German chocolate cake is not from Germany. Instead, it was named for the man who made a certain kind of baking chocolate, Samuel German.
If being with my family is like listening to hard driving Rock and Roll, being with Kyle’s is like listening to smooth jazz. His mom has a way of making me feel relaxed and at peace when we visit. She and I are on similar wavelengths, and there are times when I know she understands me on a level not many others could. This was one of those times, and our evening discussion was filled with talk of genealogy, Master’s degrees (of which she has two!), and appreciating how heckin’ beautiful her granddaughters are.
As the evening faded into a rainy night, we said our farewells to the 2018 holiday season. The Christmas decorations were lovingly packed away, and our tree was moved to the back porch, where it will serve as a bird feeder all winter. The regular house decor has returned, and we’re all happily moving back to business as usual around Clan Thomas. We did it right this year and have nothing but joyous memories of loving laughter.