This year’s holiday prep has looked quite different this year. For the first time in ages (ever?) I started early and finished the majority of my own projects (like my holiday cards) just before E arrived home from her first semester of college. The season has still been busy, but it feels different this year – much more like an intentional ramping down of activity after such a busy year.
Year two of this pandemic has been mentally challenging. There were some really low lows this year – illness and death among friends and family, the rigors and isolation of a final senior semester, the challenge of making and implementing major life transitions in a season of cancellations and restrictions. But there were also moments that will remain some of my most treasured memories. In the roughest of moments I pull them back up, in full detail, and revel in their magic.
Reading in the corner of a photography studio, and looking up at E having her hair and makeup done for senior portraits. Stacking my grandfather’s books up and watching E lean her arms on them, smiling, healthy again.
After a day full of torrential spring rains, the sun breaking through the sky, walking behind a gathering group of teenagers in fancy dress, together again after fourteen months apart. The park’s roads still closed to vehicular traffic, floor length dresses hiked up for walking, parents reluctant to leave even though the kids were ready to dance.
The thank you note we received from a sixth grade teacher thanking us for bringing F into her life – the spark that held their class together through virtual and hybrid learning. Watching F hold the new baby on our street with such tenderness and care.
A first district championship win, with a goal by E in the middle of the soccer match that turned the game around. Watching those girls celebrating on the field, the work they put into that season, the endless practices around enormous academic responsibilities, covid testing schedules, and college decisions.
The week between graduation and E’s party with an impossible amount of work to do, and the sudden loss of one of M’s best friends – watching M working nonstop in the heat to create a place to gather and celebrate. Our parents showing up to help in so many ways that eased a bit of that stress and sadness.
The moment on that first afternoon of setting pebbles when I saw the center flower take shape, and M took photos of me working from the window. The neighbors’ daily visits to watch me work over the next three weeks. Brushing in the mortar on the finished mosaic, and tucking it under plastic to cure.
A week long agenda of Outer Banks wave jumping, nothing else.
The afternoon M and I wandered through E’s new school together, opening up doors to drawing studios and remembering the early days of our relationship in similar spaces. Holding hands over the dinner table that night, in bed, on the long drive home, in every spare moment of this year.
Trading some of my fall runs for FaceTime walks with E on the other end. Reading aloud with F, a novel she was scared to read, but then took off with on her own after a few nights. Shifting work schedules that allowed for weekday breakfasts with M, more park walks and garden adventures of my own, the most glorious fall weather and colors I can remember.
And again this year, the space and the time in quiet moments here and there to make something with my hands, something colorful and whimsical and not a bit necessary or rational or sane. I came up with the idea last Christmas, and sketched up some ideas for an advent cookie countdown.
I purchased most of the supplies in January, and started working in earnest in late fall, in between some serious bulb planting sessions outside. I cut and scored and folded the cards to create an asymmetrical cookie box with parchment liner.
I cut the pieces for 3,120 cookies over the fall, and started gluing them together over the Thanksgiving holiday. Once complete, I poured them all out onto the coffee table and took this photo.
Then the assembly began.
One of my favorite parts of the card this year was sharing daily cookie posts – these were the first 18 days. I’m wrapping up with my favorite cookie of the bunch tomorrow.
A little nod to my very first holiday card twenty-two years ago.
The pile dwindled and the sealed envelopes piled up, now off and mostly arrived at their destinations.
What a year! Thanks for sharing in the beauty and celebration of it all. Wishing you and yours a very sweet holiday season and start to the new year.