Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Burning The Midnight Oil

Don't get me wrong; I love the holiday season. But while it can be an incredibly festive and joyous time of year, in order to make all of that happen requires a lot of work. Houses don't get magically decorated and gifts don't buy, wrap (and in our case) ship themselves. Those lovely boxes of cookies that get delivered to the office? Yes, they take time to bake and before I can even turn on the oven I need to tackle the chore of shopping for ingredients. You get the idea.....

Growing up one of my most prevalent holiday memories was that of my own mother coming home from work then staying up into the wee hours of the morning toiling away with holiday preparations. The copious amount of cookies, wrapped gifts and the year all three of us kids received hand knit stockings are images that are burned into my memory. And somewhere buried amongst those memories are those of my mom not being completely happy about all that was required. But each year, thanks entirely to her efforts, it all came together and as an adult I still cherish those Christmas memories. As I was in the midst of my own baking-shopping-wrapping frenzy recently I stopped and realized that in this respect I have now become my mother. (Gasp).

As a family we aren't big gift givers. Glenn and I no longer exchange gifts opting to take a family trip instead. "Santa" visits Sidney leaving a few carefully selected gifts but that is it. As far as extended family goes, some years we give gifts and other years we don't. Living in Albania with limited outgoing mail service we fell out of the habit of sending packages home. This year, with ready access to the U.S. postal system and the wonderful Christmas markets of western Europe, we made the decision that we would send small Christmas packages home. But with Christmas a little over a week away we have yet to purchase any of those gifts. We've been looking at all of the Christmas markets but have yet to find anything that strikes our fancy. After all, we like to give gifts that have special meaning rather than giving for the sake of giving. What does one give to people who are world travelers and have everything they could need? My fallback items of locally made treats really don't fare well when sent through the mail. And now as I make regular pilgrimages to the post office to see if Sidney's big gift has arrived I see long queues of people waiting to send off their own carefully wrapped packages. To date I've only acquired the boxes and customs forms needed to mail of those afore mentioned, hoped for gifts. And Christmas cards accompanying a newsy family letter? Those went by the wayside years ago when keeping track of the addresses of our ever moving friends became too much work. Besides, between Facebook and this blog I figure people are getting their fill of what we are up to.

So closer to home I'm focusing on the here and now. We put up our tree and decorated the house the weekend after Thanksgiving. It looks lovely if not a bit sparse since our rooms with their soaring ceilings are just so much more cavernous than we are used to. I figure this year we will pick up additional items at the Christmas markets and be all set for a fully decorated abode next year. Having just hosted our belated Thanksgiving dinner for friends this past weekend I'm now giving thought to our own Christmas dinner but as we will be taking off for our next adventure on Boxing Day am unsure what I should make. After trudging to several grocery stores, the local market and making a foray into the Belgian version of a Michael's craft store (my worst nightmare in any country or language) for boxes, I'm ready to put together cookie boxes for Glenn's co-workers. And despite my single, European sized oven and minuscule kitchen with its single sliver of counter space, I was on a baking streak yesterday whipping out batch after batch of cookies. That was, until I ran out of both butter and sugar and it being a Monday and the day of the national strikes in Belgium, and I was unable to get to a store to replenish my supply. But I'll get there today (or tomorrow) and continue baking tonight (or tomorrow) and those coveted boxes of goodies will be delivered this week before the office shuts down for the remainder of the year. Then I can tackle the gift buying and wrapping.......

So I'm warning family back in the states not to hold their breath waiting for a package from us. It may or may not arrive and if it does it will be a New Years gift rather than a Christmas one. The cookies will get done and Sidney's presents will be wrapped and delivered by Santa because...well....they have to. Somehow it really does come together every year and this one won't be any different. And for a brief moment on Christmas Day I will sit back, relax, eat a cookie or two and remind myself that I really do love this time of year. Honestly, I do. Because after all, what would Christmas be without the flurry of activity, the last minute trips to the store and the late night struggles with tape that sticks to everything but what it should. I really wouldn't have it any other way. Honestly.

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