Light and fluffy.

Okay, I’m not going to go too deep tonight. Actually, I’m going to stay right on the surface and reminisce. I’m just going to take a few minutes and recall a few happy thoughts.

Every year at about this same time, I start remembering a lot of things about my family and all the good times we’ve had over the years. I think back on all the loved ones we’ve lost and all the new faces we’ve added to the family. It always brings a smile and a few tears as memories come wafting over me.

I usually get pretty excited, first. I think about the holidays and all the good food we’ve eaten over the winter months. My grandmother always made chicken and dumplings for family get-togethers at her house. It was just a favorite and it went so far. Plus, she was one of the best cooks around! Yes, I have that recipe, too. I make it at least once a year. For some reason, I can’t ever remember what we got her for Christmas. I’m sure mom took her shopping and bought her some new clothes or some powder or perfume that she liked. My grandpa, well, it was the same thing every year: peanut M & M’s, and some Pecan Sandies. I think those were from Keebler, but don’t quote me on that. We just knew to buy the Sandies. It never failed. They were simple folk who lived within their means. They didn’t have too much, just enough.

One year I got my parents a gift card to the local grocery store, the place where they got their oil changed, and a couple of other things I knew they could use. Dad said every single year, “I’ve got enough stuff to last me the rest of my life.” He was right. He could make anything last well beyond it’s use! He was the recycling king! We still have boxes of Nestle Quick out in the garage that must be 20 years old! Each one is labeled with the size of the nails that are in each one. We still bought him clothes, sometimes.

What did we always get my mom and my brother? Whatever we thought they were into that year. Now, I just give my bub a Barnes & Nobles gift card and my mom something quaint (and usually something tasty).

Now, I have in-laws. You know, when you grow up with people, you know them pretty well, but when you marry into a family, you have no idea what to do. As the economy crashes, it gets easier every year to say, “let’s not exchange gifts this year.” It takes the pressure off the holidays and just allows everyone to enjoy the company and the good food.

Every year I think the complete opposite thought of the year before. One year I want something that will keep and be worth the money paid for it and the next year I’ll want something that can be eaten and won’t be sitting around until the next year. (I currently still have 2 chocolate easter bunnies in the office just waiting to be opened! I don’t know that they’re as good as they were, um, how many months ago?) It goes back and forth. I’m also one of those people who if you can’t figure out what to get me, then you need to go to Starbucks. Gift card, cup o’ coffee, bag o’ beans, it doesn’t matter. Chocolate and coffee.

On to the food…we always had the same thing every year in some form or fashion. One year, though, we’d all had enough and we had Reuben sandwiches and potato salad. It was awesome. Paper plates and plastic cartons. That was the easiest holiday dinner EVER!!! Now we have a little bit of everything. We try to only do turkey and dressing on one of the two holidays.

I love Thanksgiving. Living in the south, however, you miss a LOT of the great things about fall, like the cool weather and the leaves changing color. That’s the great thing about the mountains and the upper midwest/Great Lakes regions – lots of changing leaves. Now I just enjoy them on the Weather Channel. One year I was in Wisconsin and it snowed on Thanksgiving Day. That was an awesome treat for this girl from the south. (One day I do want a yard that has trees that change color no matter how not-cold it gets around here!)

I miss our trips up into the Appalachians/Great Smokey Mountains. We went a few times when I was a kid. It was cold, the rivers were freezing, and the leaves were gorgeous. The best thing, however, was the time we spent together with family and close friends. Those were times when my dad wasn’t working so hard and driving an awful commute to work. We always had to get back to the grindstone, but for a week we could let our hair down and be free.

The national parks and state parks were always so much fun to stop at. They are so pristine and well-preserved. I’m glad we have some close by. It’s always great to get out into nature and just lose yourself for a while. We saw many a waterfall on our way into the mountains.

Christmas is always fun, too. We had a ritual around our house every year that I try to repeat. We would begin the Christmas season right after Thanksgiving Day lunch! We cleaned off the table and dad and I would crawl into the attic and begin hauling down boxes of ornaments, lights, junk to clutter up the house, and mom’s massive snowman collection! We would hang up the outside lights first, then we would start assembling our stale tree that smelled like the shed it had lived in for the previous 11 months. Ah, that old musty, dusty tree. We would watch the same movie every year while we put up the ornaments: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I would be putting ornaments on the tree and I would hear the same thing every year as Clark Griswald climbed the upside-down ladder: “Don’t climb up that ladder!” Then I would hear him laugh so hard as Clark’s ladder slides down on itself and he looks around to make sure none of the neighbors saw it happen. I love that memory. In all the years that have gone by, that has to be my favorite.

Well, it’s been six years since my dad has passed on and I try to continue that tradition even now. We put up lights last year and Beanster got so excited. We were standing out by the road doing a drumroll (for those who’ve seen the movie, you understand). Dada plugged in the lights and Beanster’s face lit up like daylight! He got so excited, his jaw dropped open, his eyes were wide. He nearly jumped out of my arms and ran toward the house, stopping about 6 feet away and just stared at the lights. I love the wonder and excitement of a child! He did the same thing when we plugged in the lights on the tree! Thanksgiving Day is so much fun around our house.

Well, as I plan my Christmas shopping list this year, which will be mostly food and things that can truly be used, I smile and look fondly back on all the good times that have been and look forward to all the ones to come. We got gourds and pumpkins in at work the other day and I know the holidays are that much closer! Now, if only we can get some snow this year!

Peace and love, everyone.

My dad, back in the day.
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