Who takes a trip to see family in mid-December, with plenty of wrapping, baking and card writing waiting back home? Looking at all the people in the airport today, swirling with moms soothing toddlers and couples sitting this-close to each other and the long lines of passengers waiting for a cup of patience, either at the bar or my personal favorite, Starbucks, I’d say a good many do. My oldest had time between semesters, so a trip back east sounded perfect.
We begged my dad to show us some honest to goodness Amish farms, and out there in the country we found a pond, freezing over. Another week of very cold air and some lucky kids can skate and slide until their toes turn frosty cold.
My father obliged the two of us and we wound through the hills, knowing the farms would be magical, thinking we knew best and then… we fell in love with the winding road that brought us to some mid-century homes complete with electricity, tucked into the hills and hollows of the land. I think sometimes we go out searching for what we think will make us happy and are taken by surprise when our heads are turned in a different direction.
The Amish farms were sedate and quiet on this Wednesday, so we wandered further afield and found an afternoon filled with pure joy! I spent the day with my dad and daughter and wandered around aimlessly until the car turned into a quaint village, almost like the town from It’s A Wonderful Life. I fell in love with the shops, and while my dad made friends at the pub down the street, my eldest and I discovered a shared love of all things vintage. Who knew? We sampled teas and chocolates, oohed over fragile glass ornaments that couldn’t possibly be taken home, and found treasures in the $5 and under closet at the men’s haberdashery. I bought a tartan blanket, some Christmas signs and potpourri. Purchases that would arrive home intact and ready to make our homes feel cozy and festive.
By the time we turned back to wend our way to the pub, our fingers were cold but our hearts were warm as toast. Then the pub topped off the day, so sweetly. We all ordered off the menu and ate our dinner while watching the attached hotel fill up with travelers and other shoppers seeking respite. My mom waited back home, but we knew she needed a little break from us (can you imagine?), so we chatted up the bartender while we feasted on fish and chips.
I drove home, since coffee and tea were my choice yesterday, and the twinkling lights and small towns called me back to the places where I once played, long ago with cousins and a grandma who fried chicken for dinner with no thought to cholesterol. And when I felt my heart burst with gladness, we topped off the night with a movie. Dad dropped into sleep rather early, so we sought out my mom who regaled us for hours with stories of Christmas in the 1940’s. Do you find moments of wonder in the unexpected? Isn’t it beautiful to listen to the ones who came before us? Who might know secrets we have yet to discover? Listen. Ponder. Wonder. Wander.
December can drive you crazy and the finish line is New Year’s Day, when you collapse in a heap, vowing to make next year’s holiday better. More efficient. I say you could go the other way. Do something unexpected this December. Take a side trip to some out of the way place. Put off the cookie baking (you can always buy them at a local bakery) and watch the pond, the rivers or the woods. Find a space in the city away from the noise. Hang out in a cafe, tucked away from the world. Who knows what you might discover?
I desperately wanted to see the Amish farms, since they are slowly being devoured by subdivisions. I longed to see a buggy with proud horses trotting gaily down the same roads I used to drive. But the Amish stayed hidden this day. The corn fields stood quiet, almost sullen. No wash hung out to dry. So we took different roads home and stumbled upon something different, and our day was better for it. We found what we were looking for in another place. Do you do that too? It’s there. This very moment…
Revel in the magic of the end of the year.
The very trappings of happiness are so elusive. Really. We’ve had frugal Christmases in our home. That’s when we focused on other things. The dinner with whatever family members decided to ride out Christmas in frozen, snowy winters up north. You would find us in the kitchen, close to midnight, singing along with the songs on the radio. The Carpenters and Frank Sinatra. Half of having happiness is making your own happiness, filled with a good measure of kindness.
I hope this December has brought you lapfuls of contentment, but if you’re struggling, you’re not the only one. You have a lot of company.
Don’t fight the twists and turns. They’re leading you somewhere better, someplace beautiful. We have so much to learn.
There’s an old Icelandic tradition on Christmas Eve, where they exchange books that evening, snuggle up in warm chairs together and read, while they eat chocolate. Chocolate! That’s my kind of holiday, and we’re doing that this year. I told my family I must have Icelandic roots, because books and chocolate would keep me happy for days.
Grab onto your traditions. Even if it’s a new one.
Look for the beauty down the road. It’s there. You might find yourself standing in the middle of a road you never thought you’d be on. There might be something to learn, something to savor or something to celebrate. Grab your slice of happiness and bring a cup of it to someone else who needs that right now.
I hope you are somewhere cozy and safe tonight sweet friend. Be happy.