A sparkling merry little Christmas Tree in downtown Pittsburgh

A sparkling merry little Christmas Tree in downtown Pittsburgh

Do you notice that it takes way less time to take down the Christmas tree and all the associated decorations of the holidays than putting them up?  Indeed…

Yesterday afternoon, while hubby was in the kitchen busy doing something out of the ordinary (his ordinary)…preparing Albondigas soup…I was taking down the Christmas tree.  Whether taking the tree down or putting it up, It always pulls at my heartstrings. It never fails; when I put certain ornaments on the tree my eyes tear up just thinking of my children and Christmases past.  When putting the ornaments away at the end of the holiday season, my heart is both a curious mixture of light and heavy that its all come to an end.  I think of the ups and downs, the joys and the heartache, of the Christmas that just passed and I am both relieved that its over but sad to see the pretty red bows, sparkly lights, and shiny ornaments stuffed back into their respective boxes.  Yes, it is lovely to have a cleaner house again and things back to their normal places after a month, plus, of redirection, if you will.  But still…..I  will miss the twinkling lights and the magic of the season…

The silver lining?  I’m already looking forward to next Christmas!  I’m already looking forward to putting up more lights in the yard and I can’t wait to start the whole Glorfindle business once again!

So this Christmas?  What a Christmas it was!  There was a whole-Lotta shaking going on…as well as much love, laughter, (and some heartache) to go around.  No doubt I’ll put more about the past few weeks down to paper (or the “cloud,” as times would have it) as the weeks go by.  For now, suffice it to say that hubby and I had a blast at my sister’s house in Northern Virginia.  We traveled over eleven hours with the car packed to the gills with presents to spend Christmas with sis and her family.  My sis is as beautiful as ever and constantly worked to ensure all her guests had a memorable Christmas.  My little nephew Alexandre was a shining light of pure joy….not to mention loaded with enough energy to power the entire eastern seaboard!  Alexandre’s papa and hubby to beautiful sis, Greg,

Mince-master and gumbo chef, Greg

Mince-master and gumbo chef, Greg

cooked up some awesome gumbo for our Christmas eve dinner.  Donning a Christmas chef’s hat and apron, he chopped, diced, minced, and stirred over the stove for the better part of the afternoon.  I have to say, I’ve never seen anyone mince parsley by hand–that is, without the use of a machine– as finely as Chef Greg.  Sous chef Cristina didn’t come close (and I used a mezza-luna)….neither did anyone else.  This man does not need a food processor…he IS the food processor.

It was lovely to see my daughter Alessandra and her guy Dave during the holiday too.  They traveled from the cold and windy city of Chicago to be with us for Christmas.  My baby girl seems to be doing fine enough though I think little demons (which we all have) nip at her coat-tails…though she’d never admit that to mom.  Alessandra prepared an amazing white and dark chocolate bread pudding on Christmas eve (I had two servings of that delicious confection!) and a pear and anise pie, whilst her man Dave preferred to speak to his passion–tending bar!  He kept the

"Shaker-man" Dave

“Shaker-man” Dave

lot of us (and there were eight of us that night) thoroughly happy with his serious shaking skills (mixing drinks)…and, any lapses were well-covered by Greg (I do love a good pomegranate martini!).  Perhaps it is not the appropriate term, (I don’t know much about these things), but Dave’s a master mix-ologist!  He prepared a gin-based cocktail called “Dusky Firelight” that had you torching a skewered fat marshmallow then dunking it in your cocktail.  The marshmallow was definitely the Pièce de résistance…It was quite fun!  Was it any good you might ask?  Let’s say that I asked for seconds and if I hadn’t been worried about being able to help get the rest of the meal on the table, I would have asked for a third!  It was heavenly and that comes from someone who doesn’t drink much alcohol other than good full-bodied red wines.

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Dusky Firelight; a thoroughly refreshing gin-based cocktail with a toasted marshmallow as the Pièce de résistance

And….
It was special to see my son.  Here’s the thing.  We have been estranged for ten years after I asked him to leave home following two years of difficult and disrespectful behavior on his part (yep, I kicked him out…the hardest thing I have ever done in my life and it nearly broke my heart).  I honestly thought that it wouldn’t take long for him to “wake up and smell the coffee” in terms of setting better priorities and taking control of making something better of his life.  It turns out, ten years later, he is no closer to walking the better path and this, and our estrangement, has saddened me to the core.

Hubby and I decided to stop by his apartment on the way to Pittsburgh.  We had no way of knowing whether he’d be home; he had not answered any of my phone calls nor emails.  It turns out he was home! He opened the door which must have been difficult for him.  I immediately dissolved into tears seeing my boy…

He looks alright but it is clear that he is not thriving in this life.  He is not happy, probably not particularly healthy because of poor diet, and his eyes do not shine with even a modicum of hope and interest.  He admits to giving up and is just surviving, day by day, mired in self-inflicted debt and burdened with deep depression.  We took him out for a quick-lunch.  “We don’t have a lot of time”, I tell him, because snow is starting to fall in the direction of our destination and we don’t want to be caught in bad weather.

In the hour that I spent with him, I tried to impress upon him that his family loves him and misses him and wants him to be open to getting to a better place in this life.  I don’t know how many times I’ve told him…he is where he is because of the choices he has made and he alone has the power to change that.  I also told him that no matter what, I love him and that he is not alone.

I’m not sure that any of my words during that hour sunk in.  I’ve said the same words a thousand times before, it seems, and I’ll say them a thousand more times if it means that something meaningful will get through to help him.  I hope he heard something and that perhaps a seed gets planted within him that leads to some positive change, no matter how small that may be.

When we got ready to leave on our way to Pittsburgh, he opened my car door and leaned in to give me a hug  (this time, this one… unsolicited) and once again, the tears welled up in my eyes.  We were both choked up.

Come on son.  Please, please, please know that you can get yourself to a better place.  You have a sister that cares, a beautiful aunt and her family that cares, a dad that cares,   a step-dad that cares, and above all these folks, and others, a mom that loves you to the moon and back and wants you to be happy and healthy more than anything in the world.

The hug that my son gave me as I left…

ah…ten degrees of bliss and more…enough to last through the cold days of this winter and enough to warm my heart for years to come. ❤