We were away from home for most of November. We got back just in time to do the laundry, get the mail, pay a couple of bills and bake a pie. Then, because the weather was so good, we loaded the car, grabbed No. 7 Granddaughter and drove north to Healy for Thanksgiving. Most years, by holiday time, the roads are better left to others to drive, considering the shortened days, inclement weather (usually) and number of drivers on the road. We had the added incentive, this time, of a new great-grandson to check on so “over the river and through the woods” we went.
The entire state, apparently, was suffering from no snow so we made the trip on relatively good roads. The traffic in Wasilla was mind-boggling, considering I still think of Teeland’s as the center of town. But driving north we had perfect views of Denali from Willow to well past Mary Carey’s. Of course, it started getting dark at Broad Pass (why does it always come as a surprise that the farther north you go, the earlier it gets dark?) but we ventured on and arrived at our destination about 6 p.m.
In the “old days” that drive was a simple jaunt. Now, I won’t mention how many years later, doing it all in one trip is more than any sane person should undertake on a late November day, no matter how good the weather.
We had a great holiday with the Healy family. All the granddaughters were home so No. 7 got to see the cousins, as well as the new little one. Granddaughter No. 3 has a new house she wanted to show off, so she hosted the big dinner. The new grandpa did the turkey to perfection and the rest of us cooked all the favorite things. We played games, ate, slept, and held the baby … a perfect Thanksgiving weekend. One we haven’t celebrated in too long. We haven’t had an Alaskan baby in the family since No. 7 was born … and she is getting her driver’s license this year … so it was a double good time.
We regained our sanity and made the trip home in two days, breaking in Palmer for some sister time, and another cousin for the granddaughter to reacquaint with. And, of course, by the time we began the drive past Anchorage it was threatening to snow. Hubby swears that if we go to Anchorage in the winter it will snow before we get home.
So, it wasn’t until the road home that it finally occurred to me that Thanksgiving means Christmas is not far behind, and also that I had a column due. Yikes. Because we had been away from home for nearly a month we had missed out on the preparations and subtle reminders that even if there is no snow, Christmas still arrives on time. We had missed out on Christmas Comes to Kenai by going north so a major part of my attitude adjustment was missing.
However, seeing the new lights at Leif Hansen Park, and at the Kenai Senior Center was enough to bring the season into focus and a slow drive around town highlighted the holiday feeling with the twinkle lights and decorated houses. When we got home I pulled out the sweatshirts decorated with snow men and Christmas trees. I have enough to wear a different one every day for the rest of the month; checked the earring drawer … not quite so many pairs with bells and ornaments, but it’s close. I checked the TV schedule for the Grinch and Rudolph (I wasn’t disappointed) and was also rewarded with “Polar Express” and various versions of “A Christmas Carol.” Lots of opportunity to get into the mood. And it snowed.
We have meetings coming up that will all be parties with cookie exchanges and donations to the Food Bank. Santa may visit and at least one will host the Carolers. We’ll join in on some carols, and listen raptly to the Christmas story yet again presented by a small child or two. Everyone will wish us Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday, maybe even a Joyous Solstice. Brother will call from Idaho just to make sure all’s well; one of the sisters will call to complain that Dad’s fudge didn’t turn out, again; we’ll get a Christmas card from someone we forgot to send one to, and someone will remind us that we’ll gain a minute of daylight on Christmas day.
But it was with some trepidation that I fired up the computer and sat down to write a Christmas column, due in a week. In past years, I’ve written about my dad’s fudge, selecting Christmas cards, mince meat and fruit cake, Christmas cactuses, decorating, elementary school Christmas parties (mine) and “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” What’s left?
But isn’t that the beauty of Christmas? No matter how often you celebrate the holiday each year is a renewal of the excitement, the joy and the blessings of the season.
Virginia Walters lives in Kenai. Email her at email@example.com.