Posted in This is me

Lessons from a White/Pandemic Christmas

Well, Christmas has come and gone. It was different, which we knew was going to happen because of the pandemic, but it was also beautiful. For someone who thrives on tradition and control, this Christmas season has been unlike any other. It has been trying, frustrating, and even depressing at times but, as I sit here with all our Christmas celebrations completed, I see beauty, patience, and some self-realization that happened throughout this Christmas season. The snow may be melting, but the things that I learned this Christmas will be burned in my heart and mind for a long time.

So how did it start? What was the first lesson learned this year? It started back in November with the realization that I am not superwoman. I am one of those people that wants the trees up the day after Halloween. I have memories of the Christmas when I got 10 trees up and had everything bought and wrapped by Thanksgiving. I had decided that this would be the year that I would have everything done by the weekend of Thanksgiving, and I was going to start with surprising my kids when they got home. I worked it out with my mom that the kids were going to her house to spend the night after school on a Friday night so I could have all day on Friday and the beginning of Saturday to get everything decorated and the tree ready for ornaments. David was going to bring everything over from the storage building that Friday morning and we could get it all ready for the ornaments when the kids got home. The best laid plans … In actuality what happened was that he didn’t get home until after I had picked up B from school and Alyssa was home. They came home because Alyssa was ticked that I was asking them to go to mom’s and wouldn’t tell her why. That resulted in about 15 different reasons why she couldn’t go, then finally one more reason she had to come home. I finally just gave it up and told them they were coming home and to never mind. And that was how the Christmas season began. Plans that didn’t work out due to circumstances beyond my control. Not a great way to begin for a self-professed control freak. Lesson #1 – I am not as in control as I like to think I am.

With such an auspicious beginning, it then took me over a week to get motivated to get everything decorated, and it was not everything that I remembered decorating that wonderful year that I keep remembering as the perfect Christmas. Lesson #2 had to do with traditions. I have a ton of Christmas decorations, in actuality I probably have too many for my little house, and they each have a specific place they go. When I finally got motivated to start decorating, I realized/remembered that we had gotten rid of 2 big pieces of furniture this year. Those 2 big pieces of furniture typically house my villages and my dancing snowmen and cookie jars. I sat among the boxes of stuff for 2 days trying to figure out how to get these things out and where to put them once I got them out. Snowman central ended up on top of my kitchen cabinets, which I think looks even better than it did in the big piece of furniture. My villages ended up split into a residential and business district. I didn’t light the villages up this year, but I have already figured out how to do that for next year, so I am looking forward to that. Lesson # 2 – It is okay to make changes to what has worked before. Sometimes it will even turn out better with the changes.

The next lesson I learned happened on Black Friday. I always go Black Friday shopping, and typically get almost all my shopping finished when I am shopping that day. I don’t do that crazy overnight shopping, but I typically pick up mom or Lindsay around 5:30 and we hit the road. That was the plan this year, and we took off for Knoxville. I altered the route we normally take and started in West Knoxville hoping to beat the crowds. We definitely beat the crowds. In fact, most of the stores weren’t open, and we ended up waiting on Panera to open to go get breakfast before we ever got started. It was almost eerie how few people were out shopping. The ones who were out were pretty much all wearing masks. The longest line we saw all morning was the line of people waiting to get in a huge wine store. I’m not sure what they had on sale, but I definitely feel like I need to go back and investigate that store. It must be an amazing place to go because the line to get in was down the sidewalk, turned a corner, and blocked a few other stores. It was crazy. Mom and I shopped until I had totally worn her down (she’s not really a shopping fan) and I had almost everyone’s gift bought. The Tahoe was full, and we decided to stop at Target on the way home. I mean Target has Starbucks, and why would you go to Knoxville and not hit Target on the way home? This is where Lesson #3 was firmly cemented in my brain. Before we ever went into Target, I said something funny and we both ended up laughing until we cried. Lesson #3 – A good laugh should happen more often because it is absolutely energizing.

Lesson #4 goes back to planning things out. David and I decided we wanted to redo the office to make it more conducive to working from home because we are both thinking that we will be working from home again at some point in the future. We went and ordered a countertop to become our desks and it was supposed to be here on 11/24. We had already torn the office mostly apart in anticipation of this, and we knew that I was coming home to work after Thanksgiving because my school was going online after Thanksgiving break. The hope was that they could do the install really quickly after the countertop arrived and I would be able to work from home in the office for the month of December. Back to that best laid plans thing… The countertop didn’t arrive until December 11th, and they weren’t able to install it until December 21st. That meant our Christmas wonderland had an extra table in the living room for me to work from plus the decorations for the office that I had left on a part of the couch so I could decorate it as soon as the countertop was finished. Needless to say, the delay put my controlling tendencies into a tailspin and the extra stuff in my living room really got under my skin and left me not super focused. It was hard to finish the semester, and I ended up going into the office to do some of it because I couldn’t get in a good rhythm at home. Lesson #4 – Delays are inevitable, don’t let them totally ruin your plans.

We finally got the office finished (not decorated for Christmas, but finished), all the presents were wrapped, some plans for Christmas were different but everything was going along smoothly. I finally felt like we had hit the Christmas groove. Then the meteorologists started calling for snow on Christmas Eve. I live in the south, we don’t do snow. In fact, the past several Christmases have been about 70 degrees. They call for snow, but it is rare that we get more than just a dusting if we get anything. We all got excited about the possibility of any snow on Christmas, but knew that this was probably going to turn out the same way it has in the past and we were going to be snow disappointed. Christmas Eve got here, we had plans for that night, and it was raining. Then the rain turned to snow, and it started sticking, and it was a ton of snow, and this is the south where we don’t know what to do with that kind of snow. My aunt got stuck coming home from work, plans changed again, and we ended up loading the truck and heading to mom’s to spend the night (with the dog, another change in plans). The snow happened, and then it happened some more, and then it happened some more, and we had the first truly white Christmas I can remember. This was wonderful, but started changing plans again. Instead of going to my grandfather’s for Christmas dinner, we came home after opening presents and having breakfast at mom’s house. That sounds great, right? A low-key Christmas night at home. That would all ring true except for 2 things. When we got up on Christmas Eve, the lower half of the Christmas tree lights were out. That brought tons of tears from me. Problem number 1 with a calm Christmas evening at home was that I didn’t even want to look at my Christmas tree because it looked so horrible to me without half the lights. Problem number 2 was a little more of an issue. I had not planned to eat Christmas dinner at home, so I hadn’t gone to the grocery store. Luckily, we bought part of a cow this summer and still had some meat in the deep freeze. Christmas dinner became cubed steak, mashed potatoes, and deviled eggs. Did we end up having a nice night? Absolutely. Did I end up seeing some beauty in this old tree with half the lights out? Yes. Lesson #5 – Sometimes, when we think there is nothing there, we can put together a whole thing. We just have to think outside the box. Lesson #6 – There is beauty in everything, even when we have to struggle to find it.

This has been a crazy year. It is not getting any less crazy as time has gone on, and it doesn’t appear that it will get any less crazy in the next few days. There are so many more things than this that I learned this year, but I think 6 life lessons in a month and a half is quite a bit. By the way, that snow is still hanging around on the grass, and we ended up with between 5 and 6 inches of snow. That’s a ton for where I live. We did end up rescheduling Christmas at my grandfather’s, and David’s mom was able to come down for brunch yesterday morning. This Christmas has not been what we expected, but if has been an amazing Christmas season. The normal things that have marked Christmas in the past looked different or didn’t happen at all this year, but it was still an amazing experience. I have a feeling, once everything is said and done, we will look back on this year in much the same way I am looking back at Christmas. Things were different, and not everything happened the way we wanted, but we grew from it and became better people because of it.

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