Thursday, December 24, 2009

I'll Be Home for Christmas; Just Not in My Own Bed

Home is one of those elephant words, whose meaning at any given time depends upon which part you’re touching. As I’ve promised Ma’ikwe that I’d unpack some of those meanings in a blog series, this seems as propitious time as any to begin…

Essentially, I experience home as the familiar yet precious elements of our lives. Home is where we feel seen and connected. It is where we touch our roots and the place from where we fruit. It is at once a paradoxical touchstone that is both now and hopelessly distorted by a past that we can never really return to nor ever truly free ourselves from.

Here’s the outline of my series:

—home as family

—home as place

—home as culture

—home as routine

—home as work

In this first entry, I’ll focus on Home as Family.

Home for the Holidays
Christmas is coming! Whether or not the goose is getting fat or I place a penny in an old man’s hat, I’m going to be with family—which is something I look forward to with relish (often made with cranberry at this time of year). I’m typing this in the partly sunny skies of northern Arizona as Ma’ikwe, Jibran, and I zoom west along I-40, inbound for a rendezvous with my son Ceilee, his wife Tosca, and his daughter (my granddaughter) Taivyn for the long Christmas weekend. Ceilee’s mother (and my ex-partner and dear friend) Annie flew in from Virginia yesterday, and my daughter (Ceilee’s sister) will join us Christmas Day. Ma’ikwe’s got Paul Simon’s 1991 Concert in the Park cranked up on the tape player, and we’ll be there by dinner. Life is good.

When I was growing up, I did Christmas with my parents. By my late 20's, after having a kid of my own, Annie and I started Celebratign Christmas at Sandhill. Now the wheel has turned again, and we parents are traveling to our son's. It's both different, and exactly the same.

While it's important to me to protect time with my kids as much as possible, I especially cherish being with them at holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving, where it is possible to suspend one’s everyday routines to be with loved ones for days at a time. Thus, today I’m driving home to family. Even though Sandhill, where my mail comes, is 1000 miles in the rear view mirror, in the sense of the word I’m exploring today home is wherever my family is. Thus, if we‘re all together in one spot, then that location is assuredly home.

This year the timing is nearly perfect. We'll arrive within minutes of when Ceilee is expected to get off work Wed afternoon, and we'll depart Monday morning, just as he's due to head back in.

Home for the Holidaze
As it happens, Ceilee and Tosca live in Las Vegas (the glitzy one in Nevada; not the sleepy one in New Mexico), which is perhaps as great a testament to consumption and excess as one can find. The lights of Ceilee’s Christmas tree will be backlit by the never-extinguished twinkle of The Strip, just a few miles to the northeast. (Given Las Vegas’ tireless efforts to promote itself as a major sports venue, you might think of it as the Magi meets Mammon in the best two of three falls.)

While Ma’ikwe, Annie, and I have consciously chosen lives of inconspicuous consumption (at least by first world standards), my son has not and it’s a measure of our love of family that we’re not going to let a little materialism get in the way of a good time. We all like giving one another presents, and no one will be cheated out of the unwrapping ritual Friday morning.

The greater danger, when it comes to the Holidaze, is not so much getting caught up in a billboard driven urge to see Carrot Top live at the Luxor, as it is to not over-indulge in holiday spirits. In the end, no one is proof against libations with too much proof.

Home for the Hollandaise
There are a number of ways in which I bond and celebrate with my kids, including game playing (the internecine Siedler competition is downright fierce), butchering (we did that at Thanksgiving), eating and drinking (hence my cautionary note above), and even wilderness canoeing (we’re hoping to get up to the Northwest Territories next summer). But for all of that, there is perhaps nothing we enjoy doing together more than cooking. While everyone in the family enjoys dining out, we’re accomplished enough in the kitchen (and sufficiently vain about it) to begrudge a meal out when we can often prepare the same thing as well or better ourselves, and at a fraction of the cost.

Ma’ikwe and I have brought with us new crop piñons from the Land of Enchantment, so that we can prepare a dessert featuring vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, and toasted pine nuts. And we couldn’t resist scooping up two-thirds of the fresh brussels sprouts last night at La Montañita (Albuquerque's local food co-op), knowing how terrific they’ll taste after having been kissed by a frost. We’ll steam them until barely tender and then smother them in home-made Hollandaise. Yum!

Of course, that’s just a taste. In five days there’s sure to be time for such family traditions as plum pudding, a roasted turkey, egg nog, baked garlic, and ribbon sandwiches, not necessarily in that order.

I can hardly wait to find out what we’ll cook up. Just like a little kid, I can hardly wait to be home for the holidays.

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