Wandering Past Christmas Lights

When Ralphie wakes up on Christmas morning in The Christmas Story, he looks out the window and sees snow and icicles. A white Christmas. "Wow. Wow!" he says. All the stresses and dreams of his nine-year-old life are, for a moment, forgotten. In that moment, he wasn't even thinking about his official Red Ryder carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle. He's just happy.

I love Christmas every year, but I think that's what I've loved most about Christmas this year. All the things, little and big, that offered solace from a crazy world and memories Christmases past. 

Nationally, it's been stressful, exhausting, infuriating, and depressing to watch the first year of the Trump Administration unfold, with revelations that would once be unbelievable becoming routine. It's made politics seem more important and it's raised the stakes of political participation. It feels a lot different than it did when I first started paying attention. It's harder to watch the news and even talk to friends about it. People are getting hurt and it seems like things will get worse before they get better. 

Personally, it's been an amazing but busy last few months. Graduate school is basically all-consuming, and for the last three months, academics have essentially ruled my life and schedule. It's required a lot of work and a lot of mental energy, which is why I think my body surrendered after I had submitted my last essay of the term. I was sick for about two weeks. I barely left the house. 

Charlie in the snow last December.

Charlie in the snow last December.

The Christmas season, though, has been a break from all that. It started with Christmas music, played while I was alone in my apartment, writing essays and reflections and blog posts. Then I got a pine tree scented candle. Then I bought a mini Christmas tree and a poinsettia for my entry way table. The weather, even in Palo Alto, got a little colder, and sweaters re-entered the wardrobe. Hickory Farms peppermint snow mints, ginger bread, cinnamon rolls, and party mix all came out of their year-long hibernation and destroyed my relatively healthy eating habits -- but I'm not complaining. All these things make me happy, and I look forward to them all year.

Nothing beats Christmas in Oregon, though, and this years was something special. Yesterday, on Christmas Eve, just a few hours before the sun went down, snow started to fall from the sky. Not a lot, maybe a quarter inch before it stopped several hours later, but enough to motivate me to bundle up and bring Prince Charles down to Cook Park to run around, just like we did during last year's snowstorm. There's still a little frozen icy snow out there, and we'll go take another look tonight as we wander past Christmas lights one more time before the Christmas season comes to a close.

On those walks, all the stresses and dreams of this 25-year-old are, for a moment, forgotten. Mostly I'm just happy and grateful. Grateful for another Christmas with people I love and traditions I cherish. The end of Christmas always makes me a little sad, though. A month of build up and anticipation goes away tomorrow. Lights and decorations will go back into boxes and those evening walks will become a little colder and a little darker. But I'll stay warm. Only eleven months until we do it all again.