No More Rushing Around

Photo by Barry Plott on

Starting with Thanksgiving I’ve been buzzing around meeting up with people and having a grand time in ways that I have not experienced since 2019. I have to admit that I have lost much of my socializing stamina in the past three years of mostly staying hime and being isolated. I don’t know if my reaction is simply a matter of growing a bit older or if I’m just out of practice. 

I used to flit around from place to place, task to task, visit to visit with ease. It was as though I had an unlimited supply of energy that kept me going from early in the morning until late at night. I seemed able to tap dance, juggle and spin a plate on my head all at the same time. Now as I attempt to revive all of my old ways I’m missing steps, dropping balls, and breaking plates. I shut down sooner in the evening and sleep a little longer in the morning. It’s frustrating to me to realize that for the first time in my life I have to admit to having limits to what I am able to do before giving in to the aches in my back and knees. I find myself wondering if I’m just out of shape or if I’m simply experiencing inevitable changes in my life. 

I recall a time when my mother-in-law was about my age and she announced that she no longer had the stamina to be the grand hostess of Christmas festivities. She turned those duties over to me about twenty years ago and I had to learn how to be the driver of Christmas activities rather than the guest who simply showed up looking relaxed and festive.  It took me a while to learn how to replicate the wonderful Christmas dinners that she had always so deftly produced. In the beginning I could feel the disappointment from those who compared my humble efforts to hers. Over time only a handful of family members actually remembered her parties and mine became the gold standard for Christmas Day. With the pandemic all of that changed.

I once heard a friend describing her very simple Christmas Day traditions. Each year she made lasagna for her immediate family and they opened gifts after the meal. They followed with a bit of chatting and laughter, but the big tradition of the day meant going out to see a movie together. At the time I thought that her way of celebrating sounded a bit sad, however during the Covid times when things really slowed down I found myself wondering if maybe she had found a nice leisurely way to spend time with her small family group. Somehow her easy going dinner sounded more and more wonderful and I tried to think of ways to emulate the joyfulness of it. 

There are countless stories and movies about families running themselves ragged trying to create the most perfect Christmas memories. Doing that eventually exhausted my mother-in-law and she had to cry “Uncle!” While I’m not yet ready to surrender, I’ve decided to try some easier ways of opening my home to my extended family while still being able to keep up my strength and actually become the biblical “Mary” rather than “Martha” when they arrive. This year instead of a sit down dinner with all of the china and crystal and neatly ironed tablecloths and napkins I am offering an open house in which people will be free to come and go at any time that pleases them. I’ll have paper plates and bowls for food that I can set out as needed. The emphasis will be on just getting together, not hosting a feast that keeps me puttering in the kitchen before, during and after my guests arrive. I no longer want to finally sit down only to hear everyone announce that they are tired and ready to go home. I plan to actually visit this year.

My brother and sister-in-law have already refined their traditional Thanksgiving celebration to suit their own need to slow down just a bit. This year their children and their spouses arrived the day before the celebration to clean the house, set up tables, wash the china and silver, fold the napkins. On Thanksgiving day they brought a fully cooked turkey and dozens of side dishes that they only had to heat up. My brother and sister-in-law greeted guests and enjoyed the day in ways that they had never before experienced. It was wonderful for everyone. 

I wish I had thought of such things before my mother-in-law had to retire from Christmas duties. I might have pulled together a group to help her with set up and food preparation so that she might still have been able to experience the joy of having her loved ones come to her home for the celebration. I have finally realized that things don’t have to be perfect or always the same for everyone to have a good time. The joy of working together is often more fun. 

I’m fairly certain I can do this, but not by myself. Everyone’s going to get a job of some kind. I am learning as I go and remembering how my mother often insisted that I know when it is time to let go gracefully. All we really want is to be together. Nothing else really matters. There will be no more rushing around in a state of exhaustion if I manage to do this right. Wish me luck!