Gingerbread

Chim Chim Cher-ee

“Winds in the east, theres a mist comin’ in
Like somethin’ is brewin’ and ’bout to begin.
Can’t put me finger on what lies in store,
But I feel what’s to happen all happened before.”
– Bert – Mary Poppins

It was 60 today. They are saying snow on Tuesday.

It was August just yesterday.  Thanksgiving is on Thursday.

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Here I am, tonight, writing in the now, while and temperatures drop and Christmas lights go up, and lists get written down to prepare for the holiday season. Movement.

I’ve moved out of our safe-zone and into the holidays and I’m thinking of Bert and his cautionary storytelling.

Awhile back, I shared how my grief safe-zone was from the day AFTER Father’s Day to the week before Thanksgiving. As Thanksgiving is a week late this year, I promptly walked out of the safe-zone and into the field of grief triggers last Thursday. Was it 8 am or 3 pm?I couldn’t tell you. But I noticed.

The wind’s blowin’ in.

Mom’s making turkey hats, I’m writing Christmas lists, and I ordered my holiday cards. I bought a wreath hook and gingerbread cookie mix (blasphemy … sorry Mom) and started the joy-filled planning tasks while honoring the Dad-size bubbles of mash sitting on the back burner for the last few months.

The grief, still warm, starts steaming and stewing and mingling with pine and plans and memories of tree trunks and his strong love of going around the table and sharing our thanks for the miracles God provides.

Later this week I’ll share my 52 Thankfuls for this year with you.

Tonight, I’m getting out my wind-breaker to brace for the back and forth blowing all of us humans feel while crafting Hallmark holidays in a broken world.

As my grief moves, I drove through the Target parking lot and stared at the pretty trees glowing yellow with magical space in between bare branches. I stole a taster from the cookie store. I ate brunch with my family and drank a latte with another who gets the scratchy feeling our frayed heart holes have when rubbing up against the Christmas sweaters of others. Beautiful, beautiful things.

Celebrate, yes, and witness the beautiful things around you. Tend your hearts with toasty socks and mugs of something warm, and twinkly lights on boughs of delicious smelling trees.

And bring a friend some tissues, or invite your co-worker to lunch, or take an extra long bath because, while wondrous, magical, and sparkly, this time of year tends to rub on our healing wounds like the scratchy wool socks waiting for your cold toes in the back of your drawer.

Year four. Worn. Familiar. Something that’s happened before. “Can’t put me finger on what lies in store.”

Tree Time

 

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Growing up, the Friday after Thanksgiving meant searching for a Christmas tree. These were outdoor adventures that required boots, and gloves, and a saw. The group was always composed of either my immediate family, or my cousins and my uncle, and we would chant in our matching Gap turtleneck sweaters (weren’t my mom and aunt cute) that it was time to chop down a tree. Bickering for a spot in the trunk – no seat belts! – my relatives and I would anxiously await the bumpy dirt road, the snow, the chopping and the treats that would follow once the perfect tannenbaum had been selected.

I remember these trips briefly, snippets here and there, and maybe I create stories based off of pictures in my family’s photo albums. I remember the trusty silver Subaru, the swearing in the dark when the tree fell off the front of the car, and how every year, without fail, my dad would have to cut off a few feet of tree as the piece of nature stuck out our front door, on its side, until properly adjusted for the high ceilings that hosted the tree in my childhood home. Trees look smaller in the grand expanse of wilderness, dont’cha know? These adventures make for tradition, and create laughter and embarrassment, and merriment all around.

So yes, the weekend after Thanksgiving, I convinced Dylan to go looking for a tree. I was an impatient, fair weather fan, however. Our adventure consisted of driving to Home Depot and picking out a 7 ft fir, rather than a rousing ride to the wilderness. Our cheeks were still rosy from the 25 degree weather, and we bickered a little with the strapping of the monster to the top of our car. Cold fingers and toes still gave us an eventful trip and brought my (ok …. our) tree home.

I love this beautiful transition into the holiday season. We say it every year, that Christmas tends to sneak up on us. This time last year we were moving. I am beyond thankful that we do not have to do that this December. We continue to create our own traditions while creating our own little family’s history.

 

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I spent three hours stringing popcorn and cranberries as garland for the tree. The reassuring squeak of bright white kernels as they squealed along the thread, mixed with the vibrant red juice of cranberry brought me joy sitting in our new living room. There is beauty in that bright white/crimson red color combination, in the sense of purpose in a project, and the final product hanging on the now decorated boughs of our very own evergreen. I find beauty in tradition, in merriment, and in the events that ground our lives.

Beauty in the things that require adaptation too. Every year I like to make gingerbread snowflake cookies. These treats are astounding, and I love decorating them with royal icing, and I battle my mom to get her to help me stick the beautiful frosting in a pastry bag because I don’t like to get my hands so sticky. This year, we used a different cookie cutter and the beautiful arms of the flakes, well… flaked. Each time we picked up a cookie, the fragile little stinkers broke. And broke. And broke. I have never laughed so hard, as each frosted cookie seemed to shriek – ‘not this year you don’t’. So beauty in imperfection as well.

These stories and traditions weave our lives together. I’m thankful for the transition this year, and for my beautiful Christmas tree. And for snow flake gingerbread nubs, because those too, are delicious when dipped in coffee.