In the aftermath of turkey, I'm sitting quietly in the guest room at my mommy's house. The window is cracked to the cold, snowy air, and the music of a bubbling extended family trips up the stairs.
In a few hours, we'll pack up our little family and head into the village where I grew up for apples, cider, and The Best Cider Donuts in the World.
As we roll over the Chester County hills and back roads, I'll probably fight back a tear or two. Or maybe I won't fight them. Maybe I'll just pull down my sunglasses from their perch atop my head and let them fall.
I can't really imagine living here, where I spent my entire childhood, any longer. This place, though, is part of my fabric. Its historic elegance and grit push their way into your being - anyone who's lived here knows - and won't let go. There were battles, writers, farmers, and artists. There were captains of industry and civil movements and heroes. There are, still.
We're not partaking in any of the Black Friday hubbub. It's not deliberate, it's just how we are. We've never pounced on the deal. We've always spent time together over the malls. We will head on to the local university town later, where my vintage "dealer" has a few gowns on hold for me (coming up to gala season, I've already worn the ones I have around the people I'll see at the next few events). Even that shopping, though, as good as it promises to be, is a connection to here: owner Malena is a childhood friend of my sister's, whom I've known since, well, for a long time.
As we roll into the shopping season, I'm not going to preach staying home and abstaining from shopping. I'm not gong to recommend DIY or freecycled gifts. There's just too much joy in finding that perfect something for loved ones. What I will suggest, though, is that find a way to find little joys in your preparations. Perhaps there's a half hour you can browse a new store and discover a new favorite. Maybe there's a trip to your old neighborhood to wander for a few and take in the decorations. My personal favorite? I love to wander an outdoor shopping area in the crisp air, little surprises filling the bags I'm carrying, and listen to the piped-in carols.
Find the little joys in the hustle and bustle, and the craziness of the season will settle and part, maybe even reminding you what is so special about this time of year.