Robyn and I were planning a weekend trip to visit my old and dear friends, Craig and Donna, whom I’ve mentioned here multiple times Robyn made this trip with me once previously. She is a good sport about such things.
In any case, a few days before our departure Craig called to tell me that we would have to cancel our plans because both he and Donna had tested positive for COVID. His news was a little surprising since they are both vaccinated and recently boosted. A cautionary tale for all, I suppose.
Unfortunately, now it is going to be hard to find the time to see them before Lola and I depart for the winter.
With four children of their own scheduled to arrive, plus grandkids, plus Craig’s sister, along with her two kids and one grandchild, plus Glen, the permanent house guest, Craig and Donna are busy preparing to host a large family gathering in their home that will start this coming weekend but run through Thanksgiving and beyond.
Next, they will be leaving in mid-December to spend Christmas and New Year with Craig’s brother and his kids. Craig’s brother moved to southern California a few years ago.
Craig and Donna are only flying as far as Phoenix, however, the city where Craig’s dad and his wife (not Crag’s mother) currently reside. Because Craig’s dad no longer feels comfortable driving long distances due to advancing age, the four will travel together by car from Phoenix to California, where they will meet up with an even larger family contingent than the one that will be attending Thanksgiving next week. Craig’s brother will be entertaining the whole brood from Christmas Eve until January 2nd.
Meanwhile, I will be traveling for several days in early December to visit my friends, Bob and Linda. Eric is coming along, as is Lola the pup. Eric’s wife, Julie, hasn’t decided whether she will make the trip. I hope that she does.
Eric and I are still negotiating the precise itinerary, including specific travel dates. Of course, at this time of season such plans always are subject to prevailing weather and traffic conditions. The roads can be slick and treacherous, despite the fact it is a relatively flat and straight shot from here to Bob and Linda’s house.
Then, in January, Lola and I will be departing for a long winter hiatus –a first for both of us!
Between Thanksgiving at Robyn’s house and my January departure date, I will sprinkle in visits with my former in-laws, Paul and Joanne, and, if the schedules can be worked out, with their kids and grandkids; also, with Lee’s long-time friend, and now my friend, Amy; then a holiday dinner with my two nephews; and the annual law firm party on the lake at the Yacht Club; … Well, you get the picture.
I have lots of other arrangements to attend to before I leave the area in January. And I really ought to make time to see my sister, who is lives in a nearby state. We don’t talk much these days, never have, but it appears she is chronically and seriously ill.
Last, but not least, I will make plenty of time to spend with Robyn. Our Saturday “date night” remains a constant, our mid-week dinner, too, and our holiday schedule already includes special events: an outdoors festival of lights, gift giving, a long winter walk or two, swell dinners (including Thanksgiving), hand holding, tender kisses, snuggles and dressing up for New Year’s Eve!
All in all, it is shaping up to be a holiday Horn of Plenty. I don’t have any notion how I will find the time to see Craig and Donna again before I return home with Lola to greet the arrival of Spring.
This year I plan to thoroughly enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with Robyn, Thanksgiving leftovers, too, hopefully. Yet, I have never been the biggest fan of the holiday season, which always meant more to my several wives or significant others. I would like to tell you that I went along with the program because I am a get-along kind guy, but the truth is I am not. And my several wives and significant others probably would vouch for this.
This year feels different, however. For once I am looking forward to the holidays, to renewing acquaintances and renewing bonds. I’m not sure why. Might this be due to the fact I am feeling settled? After all, it is fast approaching three years that Lee will have been gone, and, at my age, time accelerates like the expanding universe. Or, is my changed attitude due to the fact that I am alone in this world, now forced to face life solely on my own terms? Certainly, my choices are all my own; nothing feels obligatory.
The first time that Lee, who went on to become a marvelous cook, incidentally, offered to prepare Thanksgiving for the whole family might have ended in disaster. This was many years ago, before we were married and while my parents were still alive. Lee’s timing in a kitchen was not well-honed at the time, and in the process of juggling myriad Thanksgiving meal components she had nearly managed to obliterate the poor bird. Somehow, we still managed very nicely on the remaining smattering of edible turkey, tasty side dishes, homemade deserts, lots of wine, hardy laughter and, for my immediate family at least, a seldom observed warmth and loving spirit.
Without question, one of my all-time top Thanksgivings. And for years afterwards, Lee and I never failed to share a hearty laugh whenever the happy memory of that Thanksgiving resurfaced.
Another memorable Thanksgiving occurred while I was in college and unattached. It remains memorable precisely because I nearly missed the family celebration completely.
I was driving, enroute to my folks’ place, when I spotted an attractive young woman driving alone in the adjacent lane. We flirted as we drove, exchanging looks and smiles, eventually exiting the highway together by mutual, unspoken agreement, whereupon a brief consensual fling ensued on the side of a black asphalt, two-lane country road. By the time I finally arrived at my folks’ place, it was already dark. Everyone was waiting. My mother justifiably was furious but assumed incorrectly that I had been too thoughtless even to pull off the road to call her from a gas station pay telephone (this was back in the old days before the advent of the cell phone) to let her know that I was running late. I might have explained that I had been thinking about her the whole time, except I was too embarrassed to admit the truth, which was that I had consciously chosen to give in to my selfish and base human impulse, consequences be damned. I therefore meekly accepted the severe tongue lashing from mom that I so richly deserved but I also have never forgotten my brief, wicked encounter with the anonymous young woman.
Suddenly, a lifetime’s worth of holiday images floods my brain and swirls around inside my mind. While other images subside and fade away, I see a little boy, who sits by himself in darkness in the middle of the night on Christmas Day. This little boy is hoping to see Santa Claus, of whom he has heard so much, but is soon fast asleep on the hardwood floor. If Santa ever arrived, the boy would have missed him. In the light of morning, the boy’s mom and dad discover him on the living room floor and gently stir him from his sleep. It is Christmas morning. This magical and remarkable remembrance remains a comfortable part of who I am.