We are iced in, an unusual December storm sealing our home into forced togetherness. A week before Christmas when the usual activities mean we have more of drive-by relationships, rushing through lists and completing projects and shopping. My Chef has always worked long hours, I helped out selling gift cards. While we were in the same building we rarely had more than 10 minutes to talk, maybe a shared plate of chicken and mashed potatoes hurriedly consumed. The holiday was measured in gift card numbers which equate to January and February sales first, the birth of Jesus in the back of our minds until confronted with truth on the 24th. We spent many years growing the business, years without the funds to purchase presents ahead, relying on that bonus check to finally come through to go shopping. Later years meant we were able to have some security, some savings, but still minimal time together. The restaurant ate up our relationship space, spit back money.
This year, we have time together and no money. Savings gone after 6 months of unemployment, dipping into stocks and no idea about our future, the adage of time or money never truer. With so much uncertainty hovering, tainting our days, still we are together this season. We are in the same room, in the same car, eating the same food at the table like normal families or what I have imagined all these years. I need no other gifts, I am working on learning to talk to my Chef again, recapturing the intimacy that drew us together initially. Like the dishes that are served in a professional kitchen and have to be delivered to the table immediately before they lose their heat, mine has cooled while we both were too busy working to notice. I got old, broken down, the deliciousness gone. I pray I am not thrown out like the stuff left in the fridge too long.
We are together, Chef has discovered Pinterest. The power saws I purchased last year are in full use, the garage now a worksite instead of a dumping ground. Besides helping my brother finish his basement, gifts are coming from Chef’s own workshop. While I snuggle on the couch reading, the sounds of hammering buzzing creating filter in to remind me I am not alone. A comfort, what I always imagined other families experienced, together time, even if they weren’t in the same room. My Chef has taken a huge hit to his confidence, to his sense of self during these last months, but also he is finding the him I have always loved. No concerns about being thrown back, I see the reason we were attracted to each other in the first place.
We are iced in and our Plum is here bringing another chance to feel like a family during the holidays, a Christmas card vignette actually in our home. Chef and Plum made gingerbread cookies, we played endless rounds of Uno, watched The Little Drummer Boy and read Christmas books. We never got dressed and we drank hot cocoa throughout the day. A beautiful golden retriever and a yellow lab lounging next to the reading child completed the Folger’s ad picture. Christmas carols played through Pandora, I found myself humming until Chef delightedly taught Plum to sing “Grandma Got Rung Over By a Reindeer.” Laughter and trash talk and gingerbread and shouts of Uno look like Christmas here. Pans of fudge and cookie cutters filled with bird seed hide kitchen counters. This may be the best year ever.
Every Christmas past has found Chef and I moody, frustrated, exhausted and distant. Gifts for the kids were always a shock to each of us, not a joint venture. How our marriage survived an industry that chews up most is a testament to God, not us. This year we are given the chance to thank Him, to put Him first and find our family again. Forced into togetherness that normally doesn’t happen until late January or February, I am not missing the message. I am fully aware of the gifts we are receiving, not to be squandered but cherished like that babe in the manger. We are iced in together, our own gingerbread home. Life is good.