The holiday season is upon us.
We are staying at a campground in Grand Isle, Louisiana through the end of December. It’s my first holiday season away from my home state of Colorado.
We live and travel in a renovated school bus and are choosing warmer climates this year.
The holiday traditions I knew as a child disappeared with my mother. She loved making meals special, even if there were just us three—my dad, my mom, and me.
She taught me, through observation of her methods, how to prepare holiday dinners. As my mom became unable to cook these meals, I took over, cooking at her house on her harvest gold range with a small oven above and a large oven below. I tweaked the spices, adding more, trying new techniques but still sticking to the same basic menu. Turkey, stuffing, cranberry relish, sweet potatoes (no marshmallows), and pumpkin pie. My mom made one hell of a pie crust. Mine broke apart or were horribly tough. Refrigerated pie crusts became my savior and mom never said a word.
As her mind left her small body, holiday meals did too.
I now celebrate holidays with Steve, my love and traveling companion, and his family. They took me in at the time my family was becoming nonexistent. I felt welcomed from the beginning and learned to love this time with them. By this time, I had stopped eating meat, and we were always treated to non-meat dishes and welcomed to BOOFM (bring our own fake meat).
This year, we are down south and alone, except for other families camping. Some are in groups; some are by themselves. Motoring through small towns, we noticed holiday decorations are already displayed with lighted trees in windows, garlands and decorations on light poles, and holiday music playing. It seems strange to me, in such a warm climate, to see winter scenes as decorations, but seeing Santa next to a palm tree in swim trunks would also be unusual.
Last night, as I took my dogs outside, I sat on the picnic table in our campsite. Holiday carols could be heard from a large, brown and white RV a few spots down from us on the other side of the campground. I heard Johnny Mathis singing “The Christmas Song.”
Immediately, I was back in my family’s living room, helping Mom decorate our tree. The album was being played in our stereo console, about five feet long, with speakers covered in brown cloth on the ends. In the middle, on the top, was the turntable for record albums and a radio tuner. In the bottom, was a large cabinet, which held the many record albums my parents had collected. My mom and I laughing each time one of our favorite decorations was found, and finding the perfect spot for each one on the tree.
I am feeling aloneness this holiday. Even if we were still in Colorado, it would be unlikely that we would celebrate the holidays together due to COVID-19.
Keeping in touch and really communicating with those we love seems to be a challenge. Some days, I feel as if I’m being pulled into the depths of our Mother Earth away from everything beautiful. I have little motivation to do anything except mindless phone surfing. Holiday blues with a side of depression anyone?
The next day, morning sounds pulled me from my bed. The incessant chirping of the birds, my dogs prepping for the day—Katie with her silly waking yips and Cody jangling his collar as he shook off his dog dreams—just as Tigger let out some hungry meows from her sofa bed.
After breakfast, Steve and I went for a long walk on the beach, which is just a short walk from our campsite. As I walked through the water wearing my thrift store black and white Puma brand shorts and an olive green T-shirt, I had not a care in the world. The small shells gently exfoliated my feet. The small birds with long, skinny legs quickly got out of my way. The waves splashed up my legs. Families were enjoying time together outside. Kids were making sculptures and forts in the sand.
Even though I am away from family, even though my mom is not of this world anymore, even though my friends are all far away, I can still have gratitude. We have a pumpkin pie waiting to be eaten. Our dinner will be whatever we want it to be, minimal fuss and big on flavor. We have a roof over our heads and enough food to eat. We will call family and friends and keep connecting in whatever ways we can.
Each morning after I get up, I take my dogs for a walk. This is my time to meditate—to see all that is around me and to understand how damn blessed I am. This may appear to some as a privileged life, and perhaps it is, but only I know the rocky path I took to get here.
We will help those that need it in any way that we can. We will trust the universe to provide, as so far, she has not let us down.
Look around you and I’ll bet you can find five things you can be grateful for in just a minute or two. Gratitude is not just for the holidays; it is for every day.
“It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment.” ~ Naomi Williams