Friday, December 28, 2012

Holiday Wrap-Up 2012

By the light of the tree
Ah, Christmas. It was a beautiful whirlwind of food, loud family gatherings, quiet moments lit only by the tiny white lights of our tree, giving, receiving and downtime. The time span is the same each year, but I can never believe how fast the season goes by. The parties will spill into January with New Year’s Eve celebrations and post-holiday gatherings, but all the hype and sparkles of the season have begun to fade.

We did get a white Christmas here in Connecticut and the snow has continued. Today the sun is shining on a beautiful blanket of white, so it finally feels like legitimate wintertime. Sammy Dog has already managed to slice her foot open on some ice – an annual sacrifice to the season’s new terrain.

This year felt somewhat surreal to me – just a little off. Maybe it was the milder than usual weather leading up to Christmas. Maybe it was the tragedies of the Newtown Elementary School shootings and the tangible sadness felt for those beautiful families. Maybe it was because we rekindled some old traditions and tried to start some new ones, which can bring on a slew of emotions. Maybe it was because I was suffering painful and nauseating constipation from my treatment or that my back and hip pain is again severe. Maybe it was because I continually find myself dumbfounded to have been here for it: my fourth Christmas with cancer. Not sure what that means. I took it all in in a very quiet way, sitting back and observing and appreciating.

My brother-in-law and nephew incognito
I feel so humbled by the reality that I’m still going strong: hosted the annual Diamond Holiday Bash with Craig – complete with our neighbor’s band and sing-along this year; shopped (online or local small shops only – you think this immuno-compromised girl would go out with the crazies?) for and wrapped all the gifts; enjoyed time in New Jersey for Chanukah with some of Craig’s family, then at the last minute rallied to host the other half at our home for a Christmas celebration when his cousin’s kiddos got sick. I opened many generous gifts from “Santa” presented under my parent’s Christmas tree, and celebrated with my uncles and aunt at their beautiful home where we enjoyed a glorious Christmas food spread.

I posed by the very lion and on the very same white porch steps that I used to as a kid with my Nonna and late Peppe at the historic Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Mass. We hadn’t been back since Peppe passed five years ago, but this year our table was full with our new 8-person crew of my parents, my brother and his wife, sister and her boyfriend, and Craig and me.

We missed Craig’s mother and his father, both of our grandfathers, my grandmother, and the friends that we have lost along the way. But, the energy and innocence of my hardly-a-baby-anymore niece and toddler nephew is enough to illuminate the whole room and remind us of the cycle of life, turning sorrow into celebration as we get the honor of watching these two little personalities blossom.

Sammy loves ripping through dried grasses.
It also made me so happy to see my brother and my sister so obviously in love and comfortable with their partners. This is the first time it has been like that for all of us siblings, all at once. It’s exciting to have the family growing again. Having our original family of five expand to eight as we squeezed into my parents living room opening presents with Sammy Dog and Puppy Brodie running amuck around us was one of my favorite gifts of all.

Another favorite moment was Craig and me deciding to have our first Christmas Eve with just our little family. We took Sammy for a long winter walk at her favorite nature preserve. Came back home for a big nap then headed out for an intimate dinner. We didn’t have a plan – which is very unlike us – and after stops at five restaurants, realized that not everyone opens on Christmas Eve, and that if they do, without a reservation, you’re out of luck. We ended up at the kitschyest, super family friendly restaurant in town. It was literally the last option and even it was only open for another half an hour. We walked in just as they were taking down the “open” flag. There were only a couple other families finishing their meals and we sat beside the huge tropical fish tank and marveled at all the knick-knack, paddywacks covering every square inch of the place from mini Jerry Garcias and Elvises to framed historic newspapers and creepy dolls galore. Our table held a barrel of monkeys and an 8-ball to play with.
Not a square undecorated

At first I was a little bit pissy about not having the ambiance and meal we had been looking for for this “special” night, blaming myself (well, blaming Craig mostly) for not thinking this through. Then, we just started laughing and realized that those are actually the best kind of moments – the unexpected ones where you find yourself eating dinner off a vinyl placemat in the shape of Santa’s face seated below a toy train track suspended overhead with Christmas stockings hanging off the rails. We’re not fancy – flattened baked stuffed shrimp with ketchup and steak fries did us just fine. Our plans to watch Elf when we got home faded as well when we both fell asleep on the couch 30 minutes into the movie, Sammy snuggled between us, three bugs in a rug. Happy and content. Tired and at peace. 

Red Lion Inn dinner


  1. Sounds like the perfect Christmas! Even the Diner was no accedent! That will be one of the funny chapters in your book. You could really elaborate on that.
    Happy 4th Christmas and New Year!

  2. Love the pic of you smiling and radiant (and your pics of Sammy always remind me of my sweet Maddy girl, who's gone on to doggie heaven but still holds a huge place in my heart). Happy New Year to you; may it be full of all your favorite things.