December 23, 2014
Red Dogs and Holiday Blues
Are you feeling a little worn down by hauling out the holly? I know I am. I've noticed some particularly frantic renditions of "Sleigh Ride" in stores lately that unintentionally capture the relentless pace we're often expected to giddy up at this time of year. This morning when Ruby emerged yawning from under the covers and Boca eyed me drowsily from the foot of the bed, I promised them that we would sleep in tomorrow. We have plans to spend Christmas Day with family, but it's otherwise going to be a low-key and relaxed week, with extra-long walks in the daylight, dates with library books and a Harry Potter movie marathon.
I've been struggling to find my festive footing ever since losing my mom in 2010. She and I both have December birthdays, and it was a month-long celebration: from our annual tree-hunting expedition to crafting ornaments or wreaths and painting sugar cookies to lunch and shopping the after-Christmas sales on my birthday. For many years we would each open one gift on Christmas Eve, but when I was in college we switched to opening everything on that night after the annual viewing of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Being a night-owl, I loved this tradition. Things are different now - there is no family home to return to. I put up my own tree one year but haven't since - it seems so lackluster. I run around trying to fulfill obligations, navigate crowds and meet deadlines, leaving little room for much spirit.
Every once in a while, though, I'm buoyed up by the memory of my mother - how her joy and generosity present year-round seemed to shine even more bright this time of year. I'll drive past a house decked all in blue lights - her favorite - and remember how our own twinkled on the spruce in our front window, visible all the way to the barn. I'll find myself singing along to a carol, thinking how we would make up our own funny lyrics to incorporate current events while warming our rumps in front of the wood stove. I remind myself that even if she isn't here, my life is filled with gifts that live on; not the least of which is a deep, incurable and undeniably genetic love of dogs.
It can be a busy, stressful season and it isn't always easy for people. Strained family relations, changing friendships, financial hardship, grieving loved ones...all these things can culminate in feeling "less than" at what we are constantly reminded is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. Take it easy on yourself, do what you can. Accept that invitation and find yourself staying longer than you planned. Watch a movie you haven't seen since childhood. Take a walk in the moonlight, maybe with snow swirling down. Surround yourself with the people and animals you consider family and appreciate your simplest riches: the love of a good dog, the smell of something hearty on the stove, a phone call from an old friend, a day to sleep in.