Holidays are like rest stops if we treat them right--places where we can take our eyes off the road, stretch our legs, look around, and recharge. Last Sunday was a good example of this.
We spent it with extended family having an early Thanksgiving celebration so we could all have the day itself at home with our kids and our mates. This was my sister-in-law's solution to what is often a ticklish problem. We all love one another, but it's hard to tear ourselves away from our own traditions and routines during the holidays.
My sister-in-law is brilliant like this. She is also an extraordinary cook, loves entertaining large groups of people--especially family--and knows exactly how to arrange space for everyone to enjoy themselves. So there was plenty of food and tables carefully organized so everyone could see everyone else, pretty settings, and an atmosphere that lent itself to eating plenty, sharing, and laughter.
Shortly after we arrived, my tall teenage boys took their young cousins outside to play. I spotted them on the trampoline, playing tag, carrying my nine year old niece around like a foot ball, and playing hide and seek.
"Your boys are so good with kids," I heard several times. "It's really nice of them to babysit."
Babysitting? The boys said later. We weren't babysitting. We were just playing.
Just after hearing this, I looked over to see Gary with my niece Ellie, who is eighteen months. They were playing with the handiest object--Gary's ever present baseball cap and a tiny plastic lid Ellie had found in the kitchen. They were swapping "hats" and modeling them for one another. Ellie discovered that she could see through the mesh in the hat and held it up to her face, peering through it, giggling. Ellie then placed it against Gary's face so he could share in the experience and fell over giggling at the results. My very reserved husband wore a broad unguarded smile. When she hugged him, putting her small head on his shoulder, he wrapped his arms around her and held her, each of them patting one other's backs.
If someone had thanked him for playing with her, Gary's reply would have sounded a lot like the boys'.
My sisters and brothers and I laughed, our talk was filled with childhood stories, detailing our personal worries and adventures over the last year. One brother recently had a minor stroke (which they discovered by accident while checking for something else) and has had to make some lifestyle changes. My sister, who you know from Cooking with Karma , has gone back to college and is doing well while working and raising three kids (along with her husband who is a terrific full-time dad). My youngest brother has recently separated from his wife and is learning how to be a single Dad (and doing an awesome job of it). My youngest sister was working and couldn't make it, but the family grapevine has it that she and her female companion are happy.
We all had challenges waiting for us at home--a few unpaid bills, housework, jobs we aren't always in love with, arguments with our mates, and health concerns--but for those few hours around the table, we were able to pause for a minute, take our eyes off the road and look around at how far we've all come.
I hope that your Thanksgiving was a good rest stop for you as well.