Thanksmas…and Beyond!


I’m pretty excited that Thanksgiving is in less than a week. Somehow, it sneaks up incredibly fast, so while things are crazy in our life right now, it forces us to stop and take a few moments to simply be grateful. It’s my second-favorite holiday, and I’m like a kid about Christmas, so that’s saying a lot.

I’ve heard a lot of friends and observed others complaining that Christmas comes on quite fast. There’s an argument about the holiday’s commercialism vs. the real reason for the season. Well, when I start hearing the Christmas music on the radio the day after Halloween, I don’t think that it’s that omnipotent being that controls stores’ holiday sales forcing it. For me, it’s that feeling of overwhelming love and peacefulness and good will that overtakes you on Christmas that is so powerful that it wants to be felt for more than just one day. I always thought that if, for some reason, I was a hermit, I’d still somehow “know” when Christmas Day arrived. There’s just something different about the day. It’s bigger than us.

So, I can’t complain when it starts spilling over elsewhere. The spirit of Christmas can be found on Thanksgiving; really, they’re both rooted in the same theme. It’s about love. It’s about finding the selflessness and humility within oneself. It’s about family. So, ultimately, aren’t they both grateful holidays? I’m thinking this is why society (or the higher-ups at Best Buy and JCPenney) have pushed Christmas into November…and October, at times.

This year, I’m trying something a little different for my loved ones as far as presents go. There are certain people that I’ll be shopping regularly for: the hubs (I’m his #1 giver now, plus I have to be in cahoots with Santa to make sure that my guy gets what he deserves — and he deserves lots for putting up with me!), my Secret Santa relative (my mom pulls names for each of us so that we don’t have to buy for 5 siblings), my niece and nephew (‘cuz they deserve it and Christmas means so much more when kids are involved), and pitching in for parents (who’s more important than parents?!?!).

However, I’m trying to give a more thoughtful gift for those who mean a lot to both Dave and I, so there’s lots of hands-on DIYing in store. I’ll provide some hints as we get closer to the big day, but since I know that some of these well-loved gift recipients are reading. *waves* Hi, guys! Too bad, you’ll have to wait to see what you get. 🙂

This doesn’t mean that I’m not taking part in one of the fun aspects of the holiday season. While you may cry “Commercialism! Gross over-spending!! How dare you support this?!” I see it more as a morning of fun with my best friend. My sister, Mary, and I have a little tradition of attacking the early morning Black Friday sales the day after Thanksgiving. Her husband and his brother go after the possible-blood-spilling, sharp-elbows-needed finds (generally electronics), and we’re grateful for that! In the meantime, Mary and I look at our well-organized lists (created Thanksgiving evening, spilling over the ads which we already have memorized, thanks to the online updates) and determine what we need to get and where. We create a schedule and take along coffee or cocoa to keep the line-waiting bearable. There have been years that we sang carols in line — I recall 50% dirty looks and 50% smiles (and even joining in!) while flakes of white fluttered down. We don’t fight with folks, we’re cheery and have grins from ear to ear. It’s an awesome way to start off the true Christmas season, and I figure that when, one day, we have kiddies to buy for, it’ll still be an important tradition. This year, I don’t have as much to buy, so once we’re done with our early shopping, we’re going to do some Christmas decor shopping for ourselves at Hobby Lobby. So can’t wait!

So, what’re you all doing for the holiday season? Are you excited that it’s upon us, or does it depress you like it does so many others?

Marching Band and Giving Thanks

The leaves have mostly fallen to meet a cold ground. The air is crisp, and from the moment that the scent of chimney fires reached my nose a month or so back, I knew it was the time of year to start giving thanks. In Upstate New York, this season can hit you in late summer, or flip flop between the occasional flurry and 60-degree days before finally settling in for a short burst of true autumnal behavior. I wouldn’t give up having four seasons for anything, but somehow autumn is my favorite — along with my husband’s. Why else would we get married in October, when I could’ve easily planned for a summertime event? It just didn’t feel right or true to who we are.

When I was younger, this season meant that our constitutions (honed and developed so keenly during the summer months to endure sweaty, faint-inducing hours practicing the strength behind perfect posture, playing and holding an instrument perfectly, rolling one’s feet, breathing at the perfect moments, and reaching a hundred pre-determined positions on the field) turned to being able to do all of the above in dark, muddy, beyond “chilly” conditions — and often in uncomfortable wool uniforms. Field band marching was more challenging to me even than running the mile each year — a huge pain in my butt, given my asthmatic fits. Yet, I loved it, and everyone in the band loved it, or else they wouldn’t have been there, putting up with the long night practices, screaming adults, and giving up beloved teenage Saturdays to accompany the football team at home and compete with other bands hours away until late in the evening. More than all the pain, yelling, laughter and incredible music (both on the field and on the bus), I remember and cherish the silence behind Fisher Elementary School.

Once we took the field and, later, when the final instrument silenced, there was a lot of waiting. Waiting for the director to give the drum major the signal to start. Waiting to punish us for a poor practice night. Waiting to teach us that sometimes, in life, you need patience more than you do talent. Waiting before finally sending us either to perform yet another run-through or, with a huge sigh of relief, home for the night. While waiting, it was inevitable that our eyes would glance upward to the stars. I’m grateful for the patience we learned, but also for the magnificent view, much like a globe of black construction paper and twinkling dots, that the field presented us. Crisp, perfect nights where all you could hear was the breathing of your band mates, who, of course, were viewing the same perfect scene. It was a gift that we never expected when signing up to be a part of the Mohawk Marching Mohicans or, in my case, being thrust by family duty  and honor to it (I don’t remember ever putting my name on a list). And I’m still grateful for it. I’m not sure that anyone we encounter who wasn’t a part of those very special, select years of marching can ever  really appreciate it. I know that it will be a shared secret that we hold; looking up at a picture-perfect, clear, star-riddled night only to smile slyly. The silent feeling that overcame the band as we watched a rare falling star noiselessly scrape across the darkness; no “ooo”s or “aaah”s, just knowing.

And, so, at this crisp, crunchy time of year, I am grateful for many things. Those old memories that, no matter what new memories arise, will always be a cherished gift in my heart. For the new memories of adulthood which constantly surprise me as “not what I expected” out of adulthood — and loving that they’re so very much better than those I imagined. Sure, I never met Peter Tork, but if I hadn’t been arm-in-arm with Dave at just the right moment, I wouldn’t have bumped into Paul McCartney (not that we’re comparing here!). I haven’t a single instrument in my house now, although I WILL, soon, someday, and I’m grateful that my future children will have an opportunity to widen their horizons with the integration of musical sensibility into their lives.

That I have the husband I never knew or expected would be so good and kind and supportive, I believe I will be forever thankful and wonder to myself, “Did my dad have a hand in this?” I always thought that he never left me anything, and was quite sour about it. But, at those moments where a budget is taunting me down with no sign of ending its choke-hold on our finances, or when, in the future, I’m staring down the barrel of unknown sadness or hardship, I’ll know that I was offered a lifelong gift that, with little doubt, was sent my way to treat me just as he’d have liked, and somehow the bad amends itself and my husband is still there to give me a “Thank God we’re through it” hug. Or, when I’m humbled by being asked to participate in a meaningful project that Dave, with unwavering faith and assurance in my ability, offers. I thank my father for Dave, and I thank his family and countless friends for making him as understanding and wonderful as he is.

We may not have everything we want; hardwood floors? Gutters? A new dining set? Tons of cashola? Happiness for every single friend and family member? No. Yet, I don’t remember a Thanksgiving that I’ve felt luckier, and I foresee a holiday season that rivals the joy that we felt 10/9/10. And, for that, I am utterly grateful.