I've got many fond memories of that week between Christmas and New Years. Growing up, it meant that we would help mom build a fire in the fireplace that my father and great uncle Les built when mom and and dad moved into the house. As a family, we spent a lot of time around that fire that week. Sometimes, we'd work on a huge jig saw puzzle on the dining room table. Other times, we'd curl up in a chair or on a blanket by the fire with one of the books we got for Christmas. If we weren't doing that, we were playing board games.
When I was growing up, we still had a working farm, so that we had to make sure that the cows were fed, cleaned, and milked before we got to do anything. On week days on a school day, that meant rushing around to get it done. On weekends, we usually had to rush as well because we either had school activities or my father had some other project he wanted to get done with our help. That special week, dad didn't plan any extra projects.
My mom would have cooked a huge turkey dinner for Christmas, lasagna for one of the nights, chicken and dumplings, and scalloped potatoes and ham. That meant that the refrigerator was stocked full of our favorite meals and we could warm up any one of them for lunch. We also always had an abundance of homemade cookies, candies, and whatever other gifts had been dropped off. I know that sometimes dad would get a big winter sausage and cheese box from his boss. We'd also have cases of fruit that were purchased from the FFA.
I remember this week as a time when I seemed to fight less with my siblings than normal. We never did watch much television, and even less on that week. If there was enough snow (usually in the far reaches of northern NY at Christmas, there are feet of snow), we'd build snow tunnels and forts. We would dig the tunnels in the snow banks dad had created with the plow by using one of my mom's table spoons or metal serving spoons. Her biggest frustration was that we'd lose on in the snow pile and come and grab another. Sometimes when the snow melted, you'd find some serving spoons on the lawn that we hadn't found.
We'd also spend hours clearing snow off the pond so we could skate. I feel like it sometimes took longer to clear the snow than the time we spent skating. My older brother and his friends, or my dad and his friends would play hockey. My mom and dad also would skate circles around the pond. Thinking back on it, they always reminded me of couples skating in old movies.
When we'd get cold, we'd come into the house where mom would boil a pot of milk and stir in some nestle quick for our own version of hot chocolate.
As I think about these things, my Christmas that I remember as a child, I realize that people around me here didn't have that Christmas. Christmas here seems to be about going to parties, visiting museums, shopping, and being out with your family instead of home enjoying each other.
I didn't go home this Christmas. Things at work make that a bit difficult this particular year. I only had three days off and the drive is a long one. Most of my family wasn't headed north anyway. My sister got there late last night, so I wouldn't have spent time with her anyway. I would have driven for 7 hours Friday and back 7 hours on Sunday (if traffic and snow cooperated) to only be home for one day and two nights. In some ways, I'm glad that I didn't drive that much for a short stay. I'm glad that I got to be here with my David cooking our own meal and opening gifts together. I also was able to clean my apartment from top to bottom and reorganized my closet and bureaus to make some room for some of David's clothes.
I had a good childhood full of lots of love and great memories. Some of the best are of this week. As I go back to work and spend the week in what I'm sure will be a very quiet office, I'll have pleasant thoughts to get me through.