Saturday, November 17, 2007

On Tradition

What is to become of me?

I have never been away from my family on a holiday, but all that’s about to change. I am going to miss Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. Welcome to the world of healthcare professionals. It’s not that I’m sad about the holidays themselves, I can still “celebrate” them here, but I’m devastated on the traditions and familiar atmosphere that I will be missing.

Thanksgiving, a holiday that never really wow’s me- I eat enough green beans and sweet potatoes during the year to sink a battle ship, just isn’t the same without the smell of cinnamon lurking in the air, the first spin of the Christmas CD’s, seeing that slimy ring in the bottom of the sink after rinsing the dishes, the site of my entire family each lying on a different sofa grabbing their stomach and swearing that they won’t eat for a year, or the post dinner walks, the dog licking the desert plates left on the coffee table, the dog licking the dishes in the dishwasher, and last but certainly not least-the dread of getting up the next day at the crack of dawn to hit the Black Friday sales…something my mom, her sister, and I ALWAYS have done. I guess I Really feel bad for my mom in this regard because it’s a tradition that she carried on from her mom, someone who passed away when I was 4, and someone who I know my mom misses dearly.

I’m working the night before Thanksgiving, so technically I get off work at 8 am on Thanksgiving. I guess this a year to start some new traditions. Maybe I’ll go watch the parade, maybe I’ll buy a to-fruky and whip up a little meal myself, or maybe I’ll just go for a run, come home and go to sleep. More than anything, I want to avoid coming home to an empty apartment.

Now Christmas, this is a different story. As commercialized as this Christian holiday has become, it’s still one that captivates me. I feel like I float through life from the day after Thanksgiving until the day after Christmas. My mom decorates our house beautifully-the two trees, one all white, gold, and glass, and the family tree with colorful lights and ornaments spanning the decades. The excitement and sense of mystery of my dad’s office/workshop being off limits has always filled me with an electric energy. Shopping for Christmas gifts, hunting for something special, saving up to get something that’s unexpected. Heading to church on Christmas Eve, dressed up (matching when we were little), and listening intently to the story of Jesus’ birth. Going to my godfather’s house on Christmas Eve-my dad and I would stay late, my mom and sister usually headed home early…I’ve NEVER missed a Ventresco Christmas Eve open house in my 23 years of life. Christmas Eve was Kelly and Dad time. We shared some good wine, some good stories, I occasionally learned a few things about my dad’s youth from his buddies who are all there-sometimes a little TMI, and there was always the joke of who should drive home. We would arrive home and I’d go to bed, my head and heart full of holiday joy.

And then there is Christmas morning. When we were young, we’d get up at the crack of dawn, but as we got older, my sister and I would sleep in (a little) and go into our parents room. We’d proceed through the kitchen and have to wait to hear the ‘okay’ from mom and dad before racing to the living room to see what Santa brought. Santa didn’t wrap our gifts, and the looks on our faces were priceless…the excitement and joy of a child. Then we’d do stockings. We all have stocking knit by my mom’s mother, a cherished gift for sure. My parents stockings are 4 feet long (no joke) and they are always bursting at the seams. I think my parents spend more money on each others stockings, as some families spend on gifts (it’s kind of sick, but it’s tradition). My sister and I have normal stockings, but they are always full of thoughtful items; although, there was the year that mine was full of socks and underwear and breath mints…I was starting to develop a complex.

After stockings we always proceed back downstairs to have a family breakfast. The smell of bacon, the tea kettle whistling, the coffee pot percolating, the smell of fresh baked bread (the one time a year the bread machine actually gets used)…it’s make my homesick. As I got older and developed my passion for cooking, I took on the task of Christmas breakfast…baked stuffed French toast, apple cinnamon pancakes with cinnamon infused maple syrup, frittatas, homemade muffins, etc.
After breakfast we’d head back upstairs and open the family gifts. As the years passed, it seemed like this took longer and longer (Christmas is out house is rather obscene), but it wasn’t about the things, it was about seeing the joy and excitement, recognizing the thought that went into the gifts, and of course the joy of shopping for all the stuff.

The afternoon was always full of family. We’d either travel, or they would come to us. The day after Christmas was always that post-holiday let down, but as soon as the holiday cd’s were turned back on, all I had to do was close my eyes and remember the magic of the day before.

But this year, it’s time for something new. I’ll be working Christmas Eve, and again Christmas Day, and again the day after Christmas. I’m hoping to get home to see my family that weekend. I know it’s my job, and that someone has to be there to care for our patients, but I’m having hard time coming to grips with the new plan. Maybe I’ll try midnight mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, maybe I’ll join the Jews and go see a movie. Either way, my biggest fear is not feeling that holiday electricity that keeps me going. I’m afraid of becoming Scrooge and just being person who goes through the holiday motions.

1 comment:

O said...

Oh, Kelly, that's so hard. I'm so sorry to hear it. I was hoping with the "Thanksgiving sacrifice" you could at least get some of your Christmas (for future years, it's a great day to travel! flights are not sold out and everyone is working like anything to get the planes where they need to go ON TIME so if you didn't need to work the 26th...). Oh, ugh. Do you have enough time to come surprise the boys? There's always room at the humongo family holiday here (hey, over 40 people, what's one more?!) and we can get you back in time for next shift. I know it isn't the same at all but it's what I can think of right now...