Ah – home for the holidays – that glorious carefree time of family gatherings creating memories, right? In real life, the holiday season has its ups and downs. First it’s great being together, and then it’s a bit too much togetherness. It’s fun to change the daily routine for a while, but when the holidays go on too long, it becomes exhausting. I looked forward to having one last holiday season with my son and daughter in our rebuilt house before moving. Jacob had been back home a few times, so he’d seen the house in all its renovated glory. For Sarah, it was an eye-opener. She admired the beautiful kitchen and bathrooms and all the improvements as she walked through the house. Mostly, though, she turned her attention to the dogs, who were ecstatic at having both kids at home to pay attention to them.
This year Hanukah was ‘late’ (Jewish holidays always seem to be early or late, never on time) and all 8 days would fall during the college break. When I had first moved back into the house and began checking out what had survived the fire, I found a box of Jewish objects and immediately hauled out one of the menorahs. I left all the decorations and the other three or four other menorahs I’ve collected over the years packed in the box. We’d have a simple celebration this year, just grateful to be back in our home of the last 7 ½ years for the holiday. The first week was great. Both kids were home and happy to see each other. We lit candles every evening and opened presents. On the 25th we did what many Jews do – we went to the movies. As it turned out, we went to the same Alamo Drafthouse cinema that we had gone to back in August before Sarah left for college. I still had the gift certificate they had given us when the kitchen had mistakenly sent out a BLT to my Jewish vegetarian daughter. We enjoyed the movie and the food (no mistakes this time) but as the day went on, I sensed that our holiday expiration date was just about up. Jacob was ready to go back to his independent life at the co-op and Sarah was ready to be home alone while I was at work.
This year I worked through most of the holiday season. Attending to the consequences of the fire – medical issues, settling into a rental house, repairing my own house, moving back, and dealing with all the paperwork that goes with a crisis – sucked up most my vacation time this year. Instead of selling my house in the summer and using some of the money to visit my sister in NYC, I had to attend to the business of rebuilding house and life. The house is looking good, very good actually. My son has made substantial progress climbing out of his depression and is much happier, and my daughter enjoys her college life in Florida. As for me – the stress level in my life, while not completely gone, has diminished considerably. It’s been a challenge, but we made it though the worst of it. I appreciate so much more the simple pleasure of having the kids and dogs all together doing little else than just hanging out, home for the holidays.