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Mid-Season Check-In

I haven’t talked much the past few
weeks about the Christmas-y things we’ve done as a family,
but we’ve done quite a few: Maddie and I went to see her
first “Nutcracker” ballet performance, the whole family
made our annual trip for a photo with Santa, our playgroup had
cookies with Santa one afternoon, and the girls and I have been
baking up a storm in preparation for our big annual holiday party
this weekend, just to name a few.

I worry that the whirlwind of the holiday season will leave the
girls jaded and bored once “real” life returns, and
there’s not something new and exciting involving sugar
cookies every day. At the same time, I see how excited Maddie is as
we go from event to event, and how magical the whole thing feels to
her. Every morning the girls discuss whose turn it is to open the
Advent calendar door at dinner that night, and they speculate on
what will be behind the door all day long. We listen to Christmas
music and dance around in our tutus for hours at a time, and
Maddie’s tried to teach Cora the Nutcracker story so Cora
will play the Rat King and Maddie can hit her with her shoe. The
girls are having a wonderful time this season, and I have to admit
it’s pretty darn fun for me to be along for the ride.

That’s not to say I’m not
running myself ragged. I’ve been wrapping gifts like a
maniac, getting boxes ready to send off to friends back in New
York. I’m baking at all hours of the day and night, and drag
myself into bed exhausted even as I begin a new mental list for the
next day’s tasks. And I’m reasonably sure I’ve
driven my husband to consider having me committed as I whip the
house into shape for our first big party in our new home. As I
write I’ve got a plate of fudge cooling and a pan of gingered
pumpkin seeds waiting to be tossed with dried cranberries, as well
as a table full of half-decorated homemade gifts that I label and
adorn during my “down” time.

But what can I say? I adore Christmas. And I don’t mean
I’m one of those people whose house is bedecked before the
Thanksgiving turkey’s completely cold in their trash can; nor
do I bellow Christmas carols at the top of my lungs the minute
Black Friday hits 12:01 a.m. No, for me, it’s all about the
kindness, the generosity, the chance to honor friends and tell them
you miss them and think of them all year round, as evidenced by the
darling little vintage cookbook you found for your girlfriend last
May and have held onto patiently for the last seven months.

Christmas is a time, for me, of having an impact on others’
lives. As I prepared all my shipping boxes into the wee hours last
night, I became quite sentimental thinking of all my loved ones
who’d be receiving a tub of my cookies in a week (or less,
depending on the speed of ground shipping). I miss my friends
deeply, and Christmas is a chance to exhale a little extra love
into the box and seal it shut before it can escape, and hope it
wafts up when my friend opens it on the other end.

It’s a time for opening our house to everyone we know in the
area, gathering all our favorite people under one roof and stuffing
them senseless. I remember in New York we had many friends who
couldn’t go “home” for the holidays, and they
admitted that our party was the closest thing to home for them
every year. That touched me, and makes me look forward to opening
our doors to friends and family here and sharing great times with

And how much do I love the chance to check in with everyone
scattered across the globe? I’m one of those freaks who
actually do read all the Christmas letters and pore over the
photos, grateful for the friends who take the time to catch me up
on how their year’s been.

And finally, Christmas is a time for impacting lives of people
you’ll never meet. The holidays make people looser with their
wallets, softer in their hearts, and readier to reach out and help
others. I see a business man strolling brusquely down the sidewalk,
then deviate rapidly to drop a toy in a Toys For Tots pickup box,
and get all misty-eyed. We picked up a child’s name from our
church’s Angel Tree – a girl Maddie’s own age
– and found a present for her together. And tomorrow we get
to attend the party this girl will be at, and Maddie will see
firsthand how the little things she does can have a big impact on
someone else’s life. Madeleine’s excited she can meet
and maybe even play with the girl she shopped for, and hasn’t
once asked if there will be a gift there for her.

Time to wrap this up – I’ve got to get back to my
kitchen and my wrapping table. But I wanted to take a moment and
say how much I love this season, sleep-deprived and frazzled though
it might make me.


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