Grandma June's barn.
We pulled into the first town off the highway, stopped at the post office to mail a package, and noticed Christmas music was playing on outdoor speakers, amplified through the small village. Children of all ages boarded the North Pole Express across the street, and one woman fashioned a roadside wreath shop from the back of her truck. Prettiest handmade wreaths I’d seen in a long time. Just outside of town, at the elementary school, I walked through a craft fair of impressive quality. There was a gentle snowfall. I couldn’t help but think, A+ for holiday vibes. We made our way up the ridge and the ground whitened as delicate flurries picked up in pace with each hundred foot climb; by the time we reached our drive, the ground was a blanket of wintry delight and I was so happy we decided to make the trip. Ozzy was visiting Aunt Johanna, but came running as he heard us on the road. We met up at our place and he stayed for an hour or so, joining Scout in creating a respectable ruckus on this early season snow day.
The holiday spirit has been slow to arrive this year. Well, for me it has. There are a few reasons why I suppose, but regardless, the advent calendar keeps turning so I’d better snap to it or I’ll miss the whole dang thing. The drive north was helping. I think I’m almost there.
We visited Aunt Johanna, welcomed into her home by the sweet-spice scent of freshly baked fruitcake, cooling on the counter. In the living room, tree trimming was underway which was a nice surprise because Aunt Johanna has a gift for creating the most enchanting Christmas trees. Adam's mother - her sister - has the same gift. Down at Uncle Kurt’s house, Aunt Jessie had just set up her Christmas Village atop one of the beams in their log home. The houses were warmly lit and provided the exact kind of wonderment tiny village homes are known for. At Grandma June’s, a few carefully chosen decorations added festivity to her library, where she was restfully watching a Christmas movie. Outside, the snow continued to fall and the pasture was now thickly covered. This was not one of those mid-October dress rehearsals: winter had finally settled on the ridge, bringing with it a quiet peace that is impossible to describe, and impossible to miss.
There is so much Christmas up here. So much winter.
Reluctantly, we headed south at the end of the day. As we approached the southern border of the state, I closed my eyes and drifted to sleep which is my favorite way to get through the congestion of Springfield and northern Connecticut. Closer to home, I awoke to a flurry of texts from Emily telling me about her day. She’d made hot cocoa for herself and her friends to take on a tree-hunting excursion. Santa hats were worn, the perfect tree was found, and when they returned to campus, the tree was set up and extra twinkly lights were added to her already twinkled-out dorm room.
I couldn’t help but notice the deeper meaning here, that even in the absence of my own holiday spirit, we’ve raised her in a home that come December, glimmered and shined with festive gatherings and warm tidings. She was compelled to bring Christmas to college, and to her floor mates. (They were a little stunned I think with her whipping up hot cocoa for the outing, but it’s the small details that make the best memories.) The next morning I told her she inspired me to get into the spirit, that I had the new She & Him record playing, and Dad and I would start on the outside decorations that day. She replied, “Nice. Glad to hear it. Christmas is important.”
So Adam and I pulled decorations from the attic and made respectable headway. Then we brewed some tea, spiked some nog, popped some corn, lit some candles, and settled in for a fun old fashioned family Christmas. It was exactly what we needed. Thanks for the motivation, kid.
Later, Emily texted that a couple of friends, still inspired by Saturday’s hot cocoa and santa hat infused tree outing, decided to host her and two other friends in their room for a holiday dinner. They set out place settings on a card table, smuggled food from the dining hall, played Christmas music, dimmed the lights, and put a fake fire on the TV. They also “dressed in Christmas clothing,” but I’m not exactly sure what that means. A good time was had by all, and there was talk of repeating these Sunday dinners until they depart for winter break. Seems like they really know how to make the most of it. My inspiration grows.
Solstice, Christmas, Yuletide... they sure have been slow to arrive, but thanks to the good cheer of family up north, and the infectious merriment of college kids, the season is finally here.