Yesterday, I returned to the world of ears, noses and throats after six days off. Even though I love my job and am doing what I’ve always wanted to do, it was still hard to go back to work after such a nice holiday break. That’s always the case though, isn’t it? The longer you have off, the tougher it is to return. All I know is, when that alarm went off at 5:00 AM and I had to rouse myself from a warm, cozy bed and a most delightful slumber, I groaned and bitched and hurled a few choice curse words willy-nilly. Fifteen minutes later I was peddling away on a stationary bike, my eyes still bleary with sleep, and that didn’t help my mood, either. But Tara was right beside me, and misery loves company, so at least I wasn’t alone.
Also not helping matters was the fact that it was one of the best Christmases ever. Last year, when I flew to Nevada on Christmas Day and spent over a week with my girlfriend, was pretty damn special. But this year topped that, because we had the whole holiday season together, and there was no tearful airport goodbye when it was all over. Yes, we both had to work the next day, but one of the things I love most about our relationship is the fact that even the ordinary feels extraordinary. Coming home, cooking dinner, and kicking back on the couch afterwards made me happy, especially after the hustle and bustle of the past few days. It really is all about the simple things.
Take Saturday, for instance. We headed upstairs in the afternoon to wrap gifts in the bedroom. Boring, right? Not Mark and Tara style. She made peppermint patties to drink, we had A Christmas Story playing on TV, and we had a great time. So much so that the jar of pickles intended for Rusty’s stocking became a separate present. Who doesn’t like pickles?
Monday, Tara worked until 3:00, and then we drove to Newberg for the annual Slavic Christmas Feast at my aunt’s house. This is a seven-year-old tradition that involves borscht, pelmini, and cabbage rolls. And wine, of course. It’s also a rare opportunity to visit with my cousins. We always have a great time, and one of the highlights is the family Christmas photo. Every year my mom is in charge of taking it, and every year we invariably wait for her to figure out how to work the self-timer and the flash, a process that stretches thirty minutes or more because she can never seem to get the two to work in sync. I think she was hoping for a serious photo, but with this group, all I can say is: ha! Fat chance.
This year, I learned that part of the reason for this newish tradition stemmed from the fact that my aunt wanted me to not wallow in sorrow that first Christmas after my divorce, so she came up with the idea of an annual family get-together at her house that was meant to be lighthearted and fun, and accompanied by good food. Aww…how touching. We’ve gone every year since 2006 except for one, when Portland ended up with 18″ of snow and the roads were too dicey for travel. This was the first time I ever brought anybody along (besides the kids), and it was nice sharing the tradition with my girlfriend.
It was nice copping a feel, too.
Christmas morning, we were up early, and downstairs by 7:00. I actually had to go wake the kids up shortly after 8:00 – first time that’s ever happened. Usually they’re down there, waiting for me hours before the sun comes up. I guess they’re growing up or something. My parents showed up shortly after, and Tara served a wonderful breakfast of fruit salad, scrambled eggs, sausage, and biscuits and gravy. We drank mimosas and opened gifts and had a jolly ol’ time. Tara and I were on the same page: we gave each other Kindles. Woohoo! My parents left, the kids went to their mom’s house, and in the evening we went to my parents’ house for a prime rib dinner that included shrimp cocktails and homemade cheesecake. Man alive, I was so full afterwards I nearly burst. All I can say is, it’s a good thing we’re working out, especially with our upcoming yearlong food challenge.
The award for Most Creative Gift goes to my folks. They are still feeling bad for depriving me of a Big Wheel as a child, so they made up for it this year. The lesson here is, if you bitch about something enough times on your blog, you just might be rewarded. Thanks, mom and dad!
All in all, a great holiday. I know it’s a cliche to say you wish every day was like Christmas, but in this case, I do.
Hope yours was every bit as wonderful!