“Mom…what’s that man doing?”
“He’s making a pork roll sandwich, hon.”
“And that lady and man?”
“She’s putting the cannoli in the box, and he’s putting NYC bagels in the bag to take back to Virginia.”
“And who’s that man walking toward the car momma?”
“He’s come to pump our gas, honey.”
“Wow, is this heaven momma?”
“No baby. This is Jersey.”
I did some Christmas “stopping” this week. You read that right. I didn’t do any Christmas shopping this past week, but the stopping was way more valuable and turned out to be a gift in so many ways. We say it a lot:
“Family is everything.”
I decided this year I would just stop what I was doing in the name of Christmas crazy, and spend time with my sisters and best friend. That meant coordinating with my family here in Virginia so I could travel to my family in New Jersey for a few days. It meant my newly retired husband buying in on taking care of our three rambunctious boxers, one a new puppy. It meant him agreeing to respond solo to the inevitable crises that arise; this week it was our son’s blown car tire. It meant doing things that were a bit hard for all of us but after a bit of conversation and planning: I “stopped.”
Over three days, I traveled the 498 miles round trip to New Jersey and back to visit friends and family I hadn’t been able to see as much as I wanted to these past couple of years. I couldn’t visit everyone, that would have been too much. But my gift to my sisters and best friends this year was a holiday meal at a restaurant, and time. We picked our eating spots, coordinated schedules (to be fair I didn’t give them much notice), and came together to “stop” together, and just enjoy one another’s company.
What a gift it turned out to be, especially for me. I brought bags of homemade Scottish shortbread and small gifts for Christmas day. My trunk was laden with goodies both up the NJ Turnpike and, thanks to leftovers, deli and bakery shopping back home to Virginia.
Christmas stopping was well worth the 10 hours I spent in my car, the money for tolls, and the investment in gas. I shared time with each person I visited, and we spoke to memories, and moments in our collective pasts.
It was messy at times. Family and dear friends have a way of prickling each other, even during the season of joy. Each of the folks I visited is going through their own challenges right now, but I felt really fortunate that we could talk about things together, and connect about what felt important to them, and to me. It brought me peace to know I’ve got the maturity to move forward, and still be grounded in my past.
My hope for my family and readers here in Virginia is that they too will Christmas Stop for the holidays. Perhaps we can put down the crazy for a couple of days, and spend some time focused on what we define as most important. I hope we share stories about “the time mommy forgot to turn the oven on and we had mashed potatoes and rolls for dinner” or close our eyes together and see the spikey tree we had in our youth. It was the one with silver tinsel dripping from the branches, and big red, blue, green, orange, and white bulbs. I hope if we discover our sister’s husband loves Hallmark Christmas movies, we stop, and sit, and watch one of those sugary missives even though we KNOW it will inevitably end with someone leaving a high-powered professional position to marry their newfound love and revamp the floundering country store on a Christmas tree farm.
I hope we stop long enough to learn something new and in the end confirm that Christmas stopping is really what the season is all about.
I hope you’ll give the time it takes to stop this year.
It’s a really great gift.