The other day, Thanksgiving Day it was, I experienced an unusual phenomenon. It was a rare and precious moment. In fact, it was gold. Through some cosmic intervention or anomalous aligning of the right planets, my kids did not fight as they worked next to each other in the kitchen. My son cut the cheese (…for the cheese plate. My daughter has the market cornered on the “other” kind of cheese cutting in our household.) My little girl intricately organized olives and pickles in complex designs for the relish tray. For a brief, but welcome, interlude in their perpetual quarrel, my incessantly bickering children said nary a word to each other. Rather than celestial or divine influence on this magical moment, I think it was just holiday spirit, which may actually be both celestial and divine. Either way, it was pretty awesome.
I mashed potatoes and cooked bacon and chorizo for my stuffing. I sliced ham and delicately rattled some paprika on my deviled eggs. My wife basted her turkey and drank wine. It was a good day. We sat at the table with cranberry colored lips and gravy stains and loved a moment together. Such is the magic of this season.
Unlike any other time of the year, the holiday season changes us. It brings us back to what matters. The “what” matters is really a “who”. The people in our lives are what matters. The holidays remind us of this. We gather in loving reunions with those we care most about. We relive good days with story and food. We create memories for our kids and become softer and kinder and better. We allow a gentle and easy joy to steer us in good ways. And all of this is important.
We can return home to seasons past and remember the twinkling lights and smells of a fir tree on a white sheet shedding needles in the corner of our living room. We gather to cook and decorate in rare moments of mutual enjoyment. Thoughts of work stress and obligations take a backseat to the simple joys of being together. Hope and love and value ride shotgun and are expressed in little kindnesses and considerations that don’t always occur during the rest of the year. A hopeful optimism replaces resignation. We actually live in the moment instead of looking past it. We slow down and understand that these moments are important. It is in these moments that life becomes what it should be everyday: rich. We are rich with the knowledge that we have people that matter to us and that we matter to them. This is a profound understanding that, if we could remember more regularly, would make the world a much different place.
Any season that can inspire my thirteen-year-old son to avoid an easy opportunity to annoy his sister is special indeed. My son is a bright and talented kid, though I suspect he reserves some of his vast intellectual resources solely to devise new and creative ways to piss off my daughter. Throughout most of the year, he is a master, a true provocateur. So, when he takes a rare pass, I am grateful for the magic of this season. Here, I see his goodness, his kindness and the vast potential of his deep heart. His sister catches rare glimpses, too. And I think she needs to see this more than anyone. For this reason and many more I love the holidays. They reveal our basic goodness, which lives within us all of the time.
I think I might try cooking a turkey in July and maybe devil some eggs. They can revive my holiday spirit every time. Hey, this feeling is a good one and we should all feel it a little bit more often. If I can find ways to bring Christmas to the days when I really need it, I will cook that bird and enjoy that leftover sandwich with cranberry sauce and stuffing, as I stand barefoot on my freshly mown lawn, enjoying a summer time sunset…and I suspect it will feel good then, too…there’s magic in that sandwich…
[EDITOR'S NOTE:"Feel Good Friday" is a regular column written by Des Moines resident Dave Markwell, who extols to all neighbors: "Enjoy where we live. Put your feet on the pavement and truly feel how great it is to live here!" Also, you can "friend" Dave on Facebook here. Or work out with him at his exercise company Waterland CrossFit!]