Home again late last night, after a family-filled Thanksgiving - one of the best ever - and a wide loop to see dear friends on the way home and drop Daniel off at his apartment downtown.
Happy to be home, of course...happy to see Belle and Max and just be home. But Tom did something to his back. Again. When TG and I made our way into the house, I found him stretched out on our bed. Any slight movement made him gasp with pain. He said this was the worst it's been in a long time. Maybe ever.
I gladly fed the dogs for him, in between unpacking, starting laundry, loading 300 photos on the computer (between his trip to Florida and Thanksgiving)...
While I worked, the last few days at my parents' house crossed my mind...lounging on the couch watching one football game after another, switching to another room, another couch and another television to watch "Pretty Girl" with TG and "Pay it Forward" with Daniel, or just sitting at the kitchen table taking pictures of the newest family member, chatting with the older ones and drinking one cup of coffee after another, while just a few feet away my Daddy loaded the dishwasher...made yet another pot of coffee...carried towels through to start washing.
I really missed my Daddy last night.
Now, I didn't just lounge around being lazy the past few days at my parents' house. It so happens I cooked half of our Thanksgiving dinner...the ham, the green bean casserole, the rolls...I even took Pioneer Woman's advice and added cream cheese to my mashed potatoes. (Some of the best advice I've ever taken. You should try it!) I told you I can cook when I want/need to!
Granted, none of it was difficult - the rolls I just had to heat up, but still...it was a first for me. Not a "first" cooking Thanksgiving dinner - last year I did it all at my house for a fraction of Tom's family...only 13 or so...
...but a "first" banging around unsupervised in Mama's kitchen for an extended period of time. When I was growing up, my grandmother would come scurrying anytime she heard some pots clanking, and more recently, I only followed my mother's directions, helping her prepare the meal in her kitchen. This was the first time I was in charge and all alone in the kitchen of my childhood. My sister and I insisted it was time Mama just relax and enjoy the day and let us do the work for a change. Funny...I figured everything out, found just what I needed. I'd spent enough time in that kitchen, I guess.
We made a good team, me and my sister, Brenda. She contributed the turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, fresh apple cake and pie, pie, pie. Besides all of that, my niece-in-law made more scrumptious pies and my niece made a pumpkin cheesecake that was simply Aaaaaah!! I ate half of it - I should know!
A few pounds heavier, thanks to that dang cheesecake, I was reminded of another "first" today - the first day of Advent, a time when we (as in Christians) reflect on what we need to do to prepare for the second coming of Christ while commemorating his first coming - Christmas. A season for reflection of the past and the future.
I Googled "Advent" and found a description on SpiritHome.com that I thought was perfect. I've chopped out bits to save space, but here it is...
Advent is a season of preparation. So's Lent, but it is a different kind of preparation. Lent is very adult and serious, because it leads to a death; originally, Lent readied new Christian adults for baptism. In Advent, we thank God for Christ's first coming, prepare for his final coming at the end of time, and celebrate Christ's presence among us today through the Spirit. God loved us and wanted to share that love. But this existence isn't well-suited for a god; it's too broken, evil, painful, unjust. So, to rescue the created world from this evil, God chose to come here and walk the earth, to grow up, to live the truth, and to die. The only way to start such a thing is as a baby, and the only way to be a baby is to be born. Hence Christmas. Because Christmas is centered in the new hope brought by a baby, it's a very child-oriented holiday. Because Advent leads us up to that baby, Advent is also child-oriented.
There's a time to get ready by focusing on your own sinfulness and wrongdoing, a time for personal transformation and following Christ to the cross. That's Lent. There's a time to get ready by rejoicing that our God is not far away and unfamiliar with the struggles of human life, that Christ is here right now among His followers, that God has already begun to bring in the Kingdom, and that Christ will come again to make it clear who really runs the place. That's Advent. "Lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the age", says Jesus.
As the first Advent candle was lit today, I thought about what kind of preparation I would do for this season. Prayer, of course, and then I decided I would strive for a more generous spirit, despite being broke. That will call for some creativity. Also, I'll try to be more joyful and less whiny. But my next thought was, Christmas is right around the corner, but Tom's back is out so I can't put up my decorations yet!
Obviously, I have some preparation work ahead of me this Advent.
It wasn't a "first", but this Thanksgiving my mother's kitchen table had a baby in the middle of it for the first time in a very long time - it was a lot of responsibility for her small shoulders, but little Haila handled it well, keeping us all thoroughly charmed and entertained, and reminding us we have so much to be grateful for, and a reason to keep trying to get better, to make this world a better place...