Auld Lang Syne

When my kids return to school after vacation or break, I am not eagerly hurrying them on their way, shoving them on the back as they slouch out the door.

A weird mother maybe, but I'm sad. 

That goes for my husband returning to work, too.  

While we were all together the two weeks of Christmas break, there were squabbles and irritations and arguments over Christmas presents, and there was the stress and labor involved in party preparations and then the frustration when I realized I hadn't gotten to everything on my list.

But we also played numerous games, of the board and card variety.  I learned that while playing Clue I will always be like that slow-witted police detective in crime novels who is forever confounded by the methods and the success of the sweet old lady or eccentric private investigator.  Diligently I would narrow things down, doing my grunt work, and as soon as I knew two things for certain,  someone else would win.  Daniel, who is only eight and had never played Clue before, won our second game! I was proud, not envious at all.

Santa brought Daniel a drift bike (the toy that caused the arguments), and Gabriella and Daniel, giggling, drifted on my tiled kitchen floor for what seemed like hours a day.  Even while trying to load my dishwasher, make homemade bread, or prepare food, I enjoyed watching them do donuts and didn't mind too much when they slid into cabinets, tables or appliances.

A racing video game brought by the man in the big red suit was a big hit with Berto and Ana, but my husband seemed to be the one who liked it most.  Despite not being keen on gaming myself, I actually had fun watching him speed down exotic dirt roads or paved highways, crashing through fences and pitiable trees when he off-roaded into an oddly realistic yet foreign environment.

What tale to tell from New Year's Eve? Nothing.  It was sedate.  In contrast, the snow that fell most of New Year's Day was a beauty that reminded me of the melancholy Dan Fogelberg song, "Same Old Lang Syne".  So I played it repeatedly as I quietly prepared a turkey with all the fixings for my family.  I listened and watched through my kitchen window as the lovely and gently transforming snow drifted for hours, feeling wistful and enamored by Nature's quiet, simple grace.  Tiny crystals almost too minute to notice until I peered into the gray day at just the right point were followed by large, fluffy flakes.

My children marched out into the freezing temps again and again, but I didn't have their bravery.  They even made a miniature ice rink beneath the swing set - something I told them they could do, having a gift for understanding and sympathizing with the sometimes dangerous schemes of childhood, but then regretted when our Phoenix kids tried to turn on the hose in below freezing weather.  (What were they thinking?!)

On one cold evening, I took a walk with my kids, endeavoring to find the sidewalk beneath the snow, trying not to slip or trip as we admired our neighbors' still blazing Christmas lights, greeting many of those neighbors, including some teenagers who were going about at their mother's behest or their own volition, shoveling neighborhood drives.

All the time spent with extended family around Christmas was cherished.  We caught up with my husband's uncle and aunt whom we have not had the good fortune to see in many years, and his aunt shared family stories and pictures with me.  My husband Matthew and I were both grateful to his brother Steve for making a point of spending a lot of time with his nephews and nieces, because our children enjoy his company so much.  Matthew's parents accompanied our family to Albuquerque's River of Lights, and though it was freezing, we got many keepsake photographs of them with the kids by huge, incandescent displays.

On the last weekend before a return to normal routines came the amusement of watching all my children and their cousins, including the teenagers, don crowns for Three Kings' Day while their parents snapped pictures.

The laughter, the aggravations, the snow, the craziness, the relaxation, the late nights, the long sleep ins, the boring stretches, the busy days, the craving for the company of family, and the moment when you want a break from them for months  - that's Christmas break.

And it was good.


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