Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas in the Empty Nest

There is something different about Christmas this year.  My daughters are busy...away in their own lives.  Most of my nieces and nephews are adults, so the focus on Christmas is more "couple" centered.  My husband and I are decorating our home the way we want to...although Emily did say she hopes that when she returns at semester's end that our house will look like Santa vomited Christmas all over the place...her imagery, not mine!  I think I will choose a more "elegant" design!

Yeah, we are taking it slower this year, enjoying Advent...paying attention to traditions near and dear, old and new.  We have watched a few Christmas specials, like A Charlie Brown Christmas...Its a Wonderful Life and a PBS special featuring the best of the Andy Williams Christmas shows...no door bell ringing, cookie stealing bear though!  During the commercial breaks, we reminisce about how we shared those moments with our families in the past.  This new found nostalgia, sans the over the top gift giving, children-centric, mile a minute all consuming, holiday blitz, feels right! 

We are visiting local merchants for our holiday shopping needs.  Our Christmas cards support UNICEF, Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Habitat for Humanity.  We will continue to make donations to area charities, honoring our friends and co-workers...really who needs another Yankee Candle or gift box of summer sausage...which btw, I have NEVER given to anyone...but you know what I mean.  For us, this gift of giving rings true to the real meaning of Christmas.

We'll head to the West Groton Nursery for the 13th time since moving to Groton and pick out our tree and wreath.  We'll enjoy a steaming cup of cider and I will select my poinsettias with hopes of keeping them alive until I can set them out on the deck next summer only to be ravaged by some insect invader...I didn't toss last year's into the compost pile until Memorial Day!  My 2013 goal: Father's Day!

New this year, we are going to head over to Nashoba Valley Ski for their Festival of Lights...just us..romantic like..Christmas carols softly providing a soundtrack to our little rendez-vous.  We love driving around neighborhoods looking at lights and we will think about the incredible displays from our childhoods...the all blue house on the Fellsway in Medford...the wreaths and garland in Stoneham Square...the cheesy tinsel trees at Redstone.  We will oooh and ah and then come home to our simple white candles in the windows and our crazy, ice blue, warm and cool white lights on our Umbrella Pine...who knew "white" lights could look so different!

I am busy planning our Annual Christmas Open House...I love it when friends and family pop in for a nosh, quaff and a hug!  I love the Open House concept...come for a while, long or short...just give me a hug before your leave!  There will be mulled wine, hot cider and lots to eat...there will be gingerbread cookies for the kids to decorate and there the annual Holiday Trivia contest, the questions are always the same, but people get stumped every year... and music...lots and lots of music! 

In years past, we made an annual Barbo Best of Christmas mix CD of our favorite holiday songs...but after 8 years, we have maxed those out, so this year our holiday favor is a lovely bar of chocolate from Theo Chocolates...a fair trade partner with cacao farmers in the Democratic Republic of Congo...an impoverished, war torn country, but the chocolate producers are not a focus of the military...cocoa nibs are not profitable for their war effort so they leave these farmers alone...the more cocoa the US buys, the more stable the farms become and the economy grows, education becomes a priority and with our prayers, peace may prevail!  This company also partners with Jane Goodall's efforts to save the great apes and another initiative to provide bicycles to under developed regions in Africa,to promote access to education, jobs and health care!  I am pleased to support this company because these efforts demonstrates what being Christian means to me.   It also makes my inner Santa happy!

Last night as we hit the mall for a few gifts, Bill looked at me and asked, sheepishly, "Why do the kids have to come home so early this year?  I want to enjoy the simplicity of Christmas with you?"  I was flattered and not taken aback...I know what he means.  We will have a happy time with our kids...but for the first time in almost 30 years, we have this time for ourselves...just us fifty somethings...and it is quite nice.  It won't be too long before the next generation will be taking over Christmas...their plans, their homes, making new traditions...so before we become guests at the holidays, we are relishing having this time...our time.

Fear not, the kids will return to the nest about 5 days before Christmas...and welcomed with open arms and hearts! Our families (his/mine) will meet at our respective family gatherings...gifts will be exchanged....awkward family photos taken, intentionally...a new family tradition...and we will muddle through some how...but in these weeks before Christmas and New Year's, we are rediscovering the season...redefining what it means to us....and making plans on how we can keep it in our hearts all year long.

Whatever your faith tradition, may you find what you seek in this season of Peace, Love and Joy...and from our home to your...Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years!