I confess, since I only just arrived home from nearly two weeks of vacationing in Costa Rica, I haven't spent much time thinking about Christmas. My children are grown up now so we take a winter vacation instead of exchanging gifts, decorating the house or indulging in any of the usual Christmas traditions.
But, on Monday morning I swam in the pool in our "casa" in Playa Flamingo, then flew home to Seattle to one of the worst winter storms in recent memory. The airport was in chaos, as many stranded travelers tried to get out to their holiday destinations.
Yesterday we had a day of reprieve and I managed to get to the library, (I always need more books) and the local Costco. With reading material and food, I feel like a pioneer storing up for the winter storms. And that's exactly what we woke up to this morning. Swirling snow, a cold wind and warnings to stay off the roads will keep us housebound for Christmas.
It seems like "old times" for me, because I grew up in upstate New York, where blizzards were common and we'd often spend days stranded at home. We were in the country, seven miles from town, so we had to prepare for winter by being self-sufficient. My grandparents were farmers, so there was always plenty of canned fruit on the shelves and vegetables in the freezer. The cows still had to be milked everyday, and one of the neighbors made butter. We were all "localvores" but that was long before that concept was popular. Soups were made, bread was baked and the holiday cookies and pies kept us well fed.
The biggest problem we faced was the possibility of developing "cabin fever" from being cooped up together for too long. How did we manage to get through day after day of blizzard conditions without hundreds of cable TV stations, computers or iPods? We learned to enjoy playing games and making things.
I can remember spending days playing an endless game of Monopoly with one of my cousins. The wealth would move back and forth between us, and we'd take breaks to don our snowsuits, boots, mittens and hats to go out sledding or to build a snowman. We had paper, crayons, glue and lots of different household items for creating an endless series of craft projects.
When I grew older, the blizzards became an opportunity to read, study and work on craft projects. A howling wind and snow were a signal to pull out the fabric and notions to create something. One of my favorite memories is of a six day storm that kept us housebound while I created a doll and wardrobe for my younger sister on my Great-Grandmother's pedal sewing machine. "Grandma Lucy" and I were linked by the process of sewing something for loved ones and one of my favorite family heirlooms is the quilt top she created from the fabric scraps she treasured.
I know many residents of the area will be sad to discover they might not make it to the mall to finish their Christmas shopping today. I'm sad for them, but for me, today will be an opportunity. I'm going to get out all my bead supplies and make some earrings and a matching bracelet for my son's girlfriend. I'll bake my special holiday bread to share with our neighbors and I'll make an apple pie for our holiday dinner tomorrow.
And I think I'll dust off our Monolopy game to challenge my family to a marathon! Instead of cursing the storm, I'm going to be grateful for a warm fire, the company of my loved ones and the safety of shelter from the storm. Like the pioneers of old, if you strip away all the glitz and false expectations of the season, you'll discover the important thing about Christmas is that you're with the people you love.
May your holiday be filled with peace, joy and love.