When I gift wrap the presents that are placed under the tree—my playlist is actually all hip-hop and rap songs. One year, right before Christmas, I ordered a red sweatshirt that had “Gangsta Wrapper” written on it. My family thinks I’m listening to Christmas music, when in fact, I have my earphones on and Tupac and Dre are rapping about “California Love”—and there’s this sense of nostalgia as the California gal in me tucks and folds perfectly gift wrapped items. Perfect in my mind, anyways.
When I’m baking holiday cookies, many of my friends would find such things to be a chore filled with the stress for perfection. Not I. I sprinkle a bit of love when the dough is happily being mixed in my devoted and loyal (of over a decade) KitchenAid mixer. There are two places that I always escape to: the kitchen or my laptop. Two places that may trigger anxiety for some, but for me, they’ve been the comfort zones that allow creativity and decompression to flourish. Is it cliché to indicate that the love for being in the kitchen is knowing that when you create such goodness, you are expressing your love for the people around you? Yes, perhaps. However, I must confess that while the people I love benefit from the creativity of the food that comes out of my kitchen, it is truly my version of self-care. I once read an article that for some people baking or cooking are a means to cope with detoxification of stress. If this is the case, then more power to this theory. If one finds that baking or cooking brings them much joy and happiness, then wouldn’t it also be true for those who find themselves being recipients of the loving goodness that comes from the baking and the cooking?
This has been how I roll. All merrily like.
I used to wonder if the “bright” in every Christmas song referred to the decorative lights seen during the holidays. You can go into every store and find a gazillion varieties of lights—warm, colorful, LED, super-super bright. It’s as if all of these options suggests that one needs brighter lights to scare the darkness away during the holidays. In some part of our lives, we can recollect holidays where even the brightest lights fail to mask the darkness. There’s a quote that many have said came from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” The truth is, those bright lights during the holidays are merely a reminder: there is always light. And, I’m not referring to the LED lights on sale at a store—it’s that tiny flicker of hope shining ever so slightly within us. A tiny flicker often forgotten of its once brightness.
I must say that it took me a few years to become a little bit wiser when it comes to devoting my love and time to the people in my life. I once used to believe that a person may change simply by loyalty and devotion to them. I’ll take the negativity, the cruel passive-aggressiveness, etc.,—and I’d be there to provide moral support with the thought that perhaps they would come around. But, a wonderful thing happened in my 30s, I’ve become aware of how precious time is and how we should spend such time with people who are genuinely true, never one to be envious, or possess malicious intent. I’ve also realized that these people have been in my life for 20 or so years or even less than a year, and as I’ve evolved—they too continue to evolve in their lives, and there’s genuine love in our friendships. Love for who we were yesterday, love for who we are today, and love even more for who we’ll be tomorrow.
And I am reminded anew of every moment I realize who these people are in my life.
What runs through a mother’s mind when she acknowledges the next chapter in her child’s life? The thoughts are in a montage of images of every significant moment in her child’s life. These images are linear—from when you first held them, to their first crawl, their first steps—all the ‘firsts’. These images also contain every moment that a mother can recall that triggered a change—high school graduation, when they rode the airport escalator on their way to the departing gate, their arrival for the holidays, or that phone call when they tell you they’ve made a life changing decision.
When such things run through a mother’s mind, her eyes will start to get teary (even those who are not susceptible to such tears) and she can’t quite fathom or decipher joy, excitement, happiness, or the emotion that comes with the realization that a phase of her motherhood is complete.
It’s complete because she realizes that who her child has become says a great deal about who her child decided to take on as his love in his life journey. And, he has become more than what she could ever imagine—exceeding all of her expectations.
The firstborn proposed to his girlfriend a few days after Christmas in his own way. He had everything planned out, and the proposal was an extension of who he was, who he is now, and who he’ll become tomorrow. The proposal was very rooted in his childhood growing up in Alaska. In the middle of the beautiful frozen Tanana River, and under that winter sun where he spent many autumns with his Dad, brother, and grandpas—he proposed to the love of his life. In a sense, the proposal illustrated a few things: how he has a calcified understanding of his Alaskan roots, how he was saying goodbye to his childhood, and who he has chosen to spend the next part of his life with.
Inspired by the firstborn’s proposal to his betrothed, I’ve decided to propose a few things to myself:
Practice less eye rolling—even the ones in my mind.
Care more where it matters—care less where it doesn’t.
Continue to love unconditionally.
A short list because anything longer leads to nowhere.
Happiest of New Year to all of you.
The Holidays in Photos