Small Town December

Last night, on December 1st, when it should’ve been snowing gently…and looking like every single Hallmark movie ever made…it rained.  And really…it seemed fitting.  Because as the rain came in and cleared away the snow…and left behind patches of grass and dead leaves and dirt…it was both exciting (because the snow is gone) and sad (because the snow is gone). And, like so many other things, it seemed to be a reminder of all of the changes this year.  This December is like raising teens.  One year it’s picture perfect…and the next… it’s like a pile of dirt.

Ok, I’m exaggerating.  It’s not like a pile of dirt.

But here’s the thing… this December 1st came around and I got to see lovely pictures of friends and acquaintances taking their little ones to the Jingle Bell Parade…and shopping along the Miracle Mile in Chicago…and baking gingerbread cookies…and don’t get me wrong…I love looking at those photos…but it gave me a bit of nostalgia for the days when I got to do the same. 

Instead, this year I have one kiddo away at college, where she’s hanging out with friends, staying up late, watching Netflix, and I’m sure studying…probably.  And I have another who spent most of his December 1st playing Fortnite in the basement with friends.  And while I’m glad that he’s able to connect with his friends all while staying in my house…I still miss him.

So, instead of heading downtown to the parade this year. And instead of indulging in Christmassy-goodness, my husband and I just cozied up on the couch to watch a movie and fall half-asleep under a fluffy blanket while eating take-out and drinking wine…and it was great. ish.

And here’s the thing.  I actually hate the Jingle Bell Parade.  Well…I mean, I really do love the Jingle Bell Parade… Like, I love the lights, and the firetrucks, and the marching band, and Santa.  I LOVE SANTA.  But the overall idea of going to the Jingle Bell Parade I hate. It’s always freezing. And snowy. I remember one parade in which we went with friends who wore full snowsuits…like, the kind that cover you from head to toe in order to go snowmobiling or snowshoeing…or any of the other outdoor winter activities that I have zero desire to participate in.  And then there was me…in my regular winter coat, cutesy stocking cap, and thin gloves…and I froze and hated every minute of it.

Or the year that we came home from the parade to find that our Christmas tree had tipped over, because in an effort to be super-Christmassy, we had cut down our own tree…and it ended up having a wonky stem.  Instead of warming up over a cup of hot cocoa, we searched the house for a set of dumbbells (why on earth did we have a set of dumbbells in our house??) and a jumprope (again…why?) and rigged up a contraption in the back of our tree to keep it from falling over.

So the thing is…it’s not really about the Jingle Bell Parade…or about any of the other things that I don’t really want to be doing…it’s about the fact that despite having no desire to actually attend the parade…attending the parade is off of the table…because our family isn’t all together this December 1st. And that’s a hard reality to face.

But there is also a flip side.  As I write this, I’m sitting in the gym at Alma College, where I get to watch my daughter pursue her goals as a college competitive cheerleader.  She is happy and healthy and has a National Championship ring on her finger...and there is beauty in watching her thrive.

And my son? Well, he may be hanging out in the basement more and more…but yesterday we enjoyed watching football together…and although we are neither from Alabama or Georgia…it was fun to watch two amazing teams battle it out all the way to the end as we cheered for the underdog but ultimately watched a very deserving quarterback win.

And after that?  Well Chris Hottie and I got to curl up on the couch and watch a movie that we didn’t have to turn the volume down for during the bad words (not that we would EVER watch a movie with bad words).  And despite the fact that we now have fewer kids and more room to watch movies…Chris made the following observation:

  • Chris: “You realize there are three full cushions on this couch”
  • Me: “Why would we need to use all 3 cushions?”
  • Chris: “And an entire basket of blankets.”
  • Me: “One cushion and one blanket are plenty for the two of us.”

So…no, we didn’t get to go to the Jingle Bell Parade.  And no, we haven’t shopped the Miracle Mile or made Gingerbread Cookies yet this year…but despite that, I got to look around my little 1/2 empty nest and realize that on this December 1st my kids were happy and healthy (I mean, relatively. They are still normal, imperfect teenagers).  My tree was up (without a wonky stem), And in the end, I got to curl up on a single couch cushion and cuddle with my husband as we watched a Saturday night movie, and enjoy not being out in the cold…and for now…I’ll take that over a Jingle Bell Parade anyday.

Much love from a very nostalgic but content Small Town Girl