23. What is your favorite holiday and why?
Sugarplummy Christmas thoughts start dancing through my head before the first child runs through the Pumpkin Patch in October, and – in my mind at least – the Christmas season officially begins the minute the Halloween candy is sorted and the costumes are put away.
Why would anyone not adore Christmas? It brings opportunities to share the awe-inspiring story of Jesus’ birth, to see joy on the faces of friends and family as they open gifts you personally chose and to be swept away in a wave of wonderfulness as you sing old-fashioned songs, sip overly marshmallowed hot chocolate and soak up the outpouring of generosity and kindness that naturally seem to flow a little more freely during the holiday season.
Christmas is an exciting time. Our living room becomes a twinkle-lit, Santa-filled wonderland with our beautiful, humbling nativity scene taking center stage in the midst of the commercialism and childlike cuteness. There have been a few years when I even went so far as to wrap the pictures on the wall to look like Christmas gifts. There is so much joy and laughter (and awesome food!) during the month of December, and the parties, gift-wrapping, church programs and so much more add up to one pretty rockin’ awesome time of the year.
Christmas is not my favorite holiday, though. Surprised?
Alongside the fun that Christmas brings is also a significant amount of running around and a delicate balancing act of equal time spent with each segment of the family. We get up Christmas morning to unwrap gifts at our own home and then rush into the car to make the trip north to Crossett to be first with my parents and then with your Daddy’s parents. It is usually well into the night before we get home, and we are invariably greeted by a living room packed beyond the brim with boxes, toys, clothes and discarded wrapping paper (so much so that we are usually so overwhelmed by it that we go straight to bed and leave it there until the next day when we can attack it with clear minds).
Don’t get me wrong – Christmas is great. But it is definitely not my favorite holiday. Without a doubt, Thanksgiving is my favorite. As you know, every year we go to Branson and spend several days at a condo with Nana, Papa, Uncle Jake and Aunt Courtney. That alone is enough to make Thanksgiving my favorite holiday, but there is an infinitely long list of other reasons it takes the lead.
Nana, Aunt Courtney and I go shopping on Black Friday. I doubt either one of them know how much I look forward to that time together. We laugh. We dig in and refuse to give up our spots in line. We map out a game plan with the sales papers. We laugh. We find great deals. We make memories. We laugh.
Did I mention we laugh?
What do we laugh about? Everything. Nothing. All points in between. It’s amazing the things you’ll find funny when you’ve been up for 24 hours without resting and all you have to keep you going is your love for the two women you are with and the shot of caffeine you got with “first breakfast” some time between midnight and 2 a.m. at Denny’s.
Thanksgiving is more than just Black Friday fun, though. It’s so much more, in fact.
We go to Silver Dollar City and see millions of Christmas lights. Despite the blistering cold, we ride the open-air train and hear the old man in the big chair relate the story of the first Christmas in that lonely manger in Bethlehem. You girls get your pictures taken with the greatest Santa of all time. Sometimes we see a live production of “A Christmas Carol” and other times we spend our time on the kiddie rides or walking in and out of shops. We watch the glassblower and the blacksmith, we eat way too many sweets from the candy shop and we get excited about stopping at the bakery on the way out.
We also spend time with Aunt Courtney’s family. They have welcomed us like we are their own each year we have been there, and it’s nice to be part of a big family gathering again. There was a time when we got together with your Papa’s family fairly frequently, but, unfortunately, that was long before you girls were born.
Papa has two brothers (Uncle Curt whom you have met and Uncle Mark who passed away before you were blessed to meet him) and a sister (Aunt Yvonne – or “Aunt Ebon,” as Aubrey calls her) who each had plenty of kids of their own. When we all got together, your grandparents’ home (which is where we live now) was filled beyond the brim with rowdiness and memory-making moments.
As we aged and the grandkids began making their own lives, we didn’t get together much anymore. I dearly missed seeing the raucously thrown Rook cards hitting the table, hearing Pap-pa’s excited “whoopty doopty doos” and seeing the aunts huddled in the living room chatting about their silly husbands. Those are days you girls will never fully understand since you weren’t there, but trust me – they were great.
So when we’re with Aunt Courtney’s family and everyone knows each other so well and is talking and laughing, for a couple of hours I get that feeling like I’ve gone home again. No, it’s not as loud as the Rook games were, and it’s not quite the same when you don’t see the uncles pestering Pap-pa or hear Mam-ma telling everyone to get out of her kitchen. But there is love and family and a bond that draws us together regardless of what blood flows through our veins.
It’s a good feeling. I like it. It’s a big part of what I adore so much about Thanksgiving.
But that’s not all.
We also get to see your Daddy’s family when we come back through Pine Bluff on the way home. We don’t see them nearly enough, but that is one time of the year when I’m at least 99% sure we’ll get to see them. No matter what else happens to keep us from getting together throughout the year, we’re almost always able to see each other during that time.
On top of all that, Thanksgiving presents the rare opportunity to spend a long stretch of time away from home with my sweet little family, and that’s always fun. In fact, it was so much fun last year that Sarah and Aubrey cried brokenheartedly when we left Branson because they didn’t want to leave. Sarah asked if we could move there, and I think they both missed the point that living there wouldn’t mean daily trips to Silver Dollar City, condo living and unlimited access to “JakeJake” and “Kiki,” as Sarah used to call Jake and Courtney.
Thanksgiving is such a blessing. Even though we don’t live near each other or get to spend time together as often as we might like to, the miles between us don’t seem to matter while we’re together for those few days. We’re talking and laughing (did I mention the laughing?), shopping and just being together. Thanksgiving is a reminder of how great the family ties are that bind us together, and there is rarely any other time of the year that I am so clearly reminded of how blessed, loved and thankful I am.