Seven weeks and twice as many apple pies later, life has remained surprising normal—albeit a little sweeter—since my mother and father arrived from across the country to make their final home with my husband and me. The Great Recession of 2007-2009 and the sluggish home sales that accompanied it hit home for us through the agonizingly long time it took to sell my parents' previous home. But the sale occurred, finally, just in time to get them here for the holidays.
For much of our marriage, my husband and I have lived far from any family, and, without children, our holiday celebrations have grown increasingly spare over the years. Putting up a tree, decorating, and holiday cooking seem like an awful lot of trouble for the two of us, especially when grading final papers and exams always takes me up to the day or two before Christmas. Lacking many traditions of our own, I was excited about having my parents here for the holidays, the first of what I expect will be many more. I wondered what new traditions we might begin in this new chapter of life.
The purchase of a Thanksgiving turkey provided the perfect opportunity to begin a new tradition. Like many others, particularly (and fittingly) Christians, I have recently undergone a personal conviction about factory farming. So on a gorgeous fall morning, we drove an hour south to pick up a free-range turkey that had been raised humanely and processed at a local farm. The chance to support a Christian family in their agricultural efforts (and to witness all eight of their children taking part in that wholesome work) blessed us, too.
In the absence of most of the trappings of Christmas, spending Christmas Eve with our church family has become the center of my husband's and my Christmas celebration. We both take part in leading the worship each year in the church's two candlelight Celtic Christian services. This year, for the first time, I shared the message at the second service, and my parents' presence was especially meaningful, since it was their example of faith that led me to my own relationship with Christ as a young girl.
When Christmas morning arrived, my husband and I schlepped our stuffed stockings and wrapped gifts up to the garage apartment, where my parents are staying while we build their new house behind ours. Mom had bought a three-foot-tall plastic tree at the drugstore, strung up a few lights, and placed presents underneath it next to the Nativity and a paper mache angel one of my brothers made many years ago in grade school. Pulling the little surprises left by Santa from our stockings and opening gifts by turn, laughing, and reminiscing stretched the morning out, much like those magical Christmas mornings of childhood when unwrapping presents seemed to take all day. I imagine when the disciples handed out to the 5,000 the endless bounty Jesus provided from five loaves and two fishes, it felt a lot like such a Christmas morning. And almost as miraculously for Virginia, it began to snow, creating the first White Christmas our region had seen in years.
Speaking of miracles, having my parents here is awakening my dormant domesticity. Or maybe I just freely borrow from Mom's. My husband and I are the type who attend parties but don't throw them. Yet this year I felt inspired to host a New Year's Eve Eve gathering at our home, inviting all the people who usually invite us. Having my mother here to help me get the house ready while my husband prepared an army's portion of food made hosting such an event not only more doable but more pleasurable, too.
Sharing the holidays with my parents was certainly wonderful. But even more joyous is sharing the mundane, everyday things: enjoying Mom's ubiquitous apple pies, for example (okay, those aren't exactly mundane); taking the daily newspaper to my father rather than directly to the recycling bin; sharing meals and trips to the post office, and driving Dad to the car dealer to pick up his vehicle after servicing; coming home to the laundry having been brought in from the clothesline and folded by Mom; and setting weekly appointments with Dad to watch Modern Family and The Office. These are the things I am treasuring.
I realize that just seven weeks into our new life together—one I hope will extend into a decade or more—my husband and I are in the honeymoon phase with my parents. When I told my mom about these blog posts, she exhibited her characteristically helpful spirit. "Well, if things are going too smoothly," she offered, "I can always try to rough things up a little to give you more to write about."
I suspect that, ultimately, won't be necessary. But for now, I'll keep enjoying the honeymoon.