I’ll Be Gnome for Christmas

My week of Christmas in the South was a whirlwind of joy despite the unending grey clouds full of rain (seriously, I think the rain followed me from Boston). Here’s the highlight reel:

Per usual, I barely slept Friday night in Boston. I had an early flight out Saturday – why waste a day traveling?! Woodstock was my first stop, full of baby snuggles, books, pancakes, bacon, and much-needed coffee, then I headed to Rome home. It’s hard not to love a place like Rome, even with its hard parts. 

The Sunshine Gang met me for lunch at Mellow and Swift coffee before heading to Suz’s to get ready for Berry’s Christmas Party at Oak Hill’s fancy new pavilion. 
The Party was a smashing success. I love a good reason to get dressed up at Christmas time though it was raining like crazy and threatening to ice. I even got to surprise a dear friend who didn’t know I was flying down from Boston in time for the party. The alumni office found Martha’s old sleigh in storage, dusted off all the cobwebs, and piled it high with gifts. It was the perfect place for group photos and conversations with friends. 

Sunday was a special day, too. Donna showed me all of her Christmas trees and santas and villages (she is seriously Christmas decor goals, you guys. Her house is a wonderland. I cannot wait to have a house and a million Christmas decorations) then we set off for Chattanooga to meet Abby and Joseph at Tupelo Honey Cafe (of course we did). We laughed and talked and exchanged gifts over good southern food and when they started putting chairs up on tables to close we weren’t ready to leave so we found a coffee shop and talked more. I could spend hours with them and never get tired of it. Even if we’re not talking, I love being around them. 

Monday was slow and wonderful. I got my hair done (thanks Amy!) and spent most of the day in Donna’s office reading and just existing in one place without the hustle. It was so good for my heart and mind to slow down and BE for a little while. 

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were spent in Perry doing all things family. Dad and I watched a lot of ESPN and Jeopardy. Brad showed me all the headway he’s made on his new house. We took family photos (trying to get a dog to be still and look at the camera is like trying to control a toddler: not possible) and ate at Cracker Barrel. Dad and I took Chickfila over to Granny’s house for lunch and stayed for hours talking with her and Aunt June about all of the things families talk about when they are finally in the same room together. Uncle Kevin finally accepted my friend request on Facebook and I spent some much needed quality time with Cassi. My cousins are probably better than yours, but we don’t have to talk about it.

Friday I slept in a little, then had coffee with Sharman in Ouida’s living room below Martha’s portrait (as things should be). There’s so much restless in me, so many emotions, and she gets it. Her reminders to savor this New England season keep me from wishing away this time and open my eyes to ways this will be beneficial in the long run. No time is wasted. 
Before jumping on the Watt Wedding Train, Donna and I had lunch at Ana’s, which just reopened! Obviously, you need to go if you’re in Rome, but the parking lot is a little bit of a joke so keep that in mind. We talked family and houses with wrap-around porches, Christmas gifts and bucket list places to visit (like Antarctica and Scotland). Donna’s office is like a deep, deep breath that clears all the cobwebs and lets the gears in my brain rest and reset. Our conversations are a perspective shift and a reality check and a solace and a gift all at one time. Leaving is always the hardest part. 

The Watt Wedding was such a festive occasion, full of WinShape Nation and friends I love deeply. Honestly, I want to hire all the Camp people to clean up after my wedding. They reset the Great Room in about 10 minutes flat, which was amazing. Christine and Kolby were darling and lovely and all things full of love and life for their big day. The reception was so much fun. I got to hug some of the dearest people from my days on the Mountain. I will never, ever forget that season of my life and the ways I grew and matured and became. It was so hard, but so rewarding in the end and I walked away with friendships and cheerleaders that will last a lifetime. I can’t even explain how special it was to see them after so long, especially Ginny Ball, Cathy, and Betty.

Sunday I woke up early and stopped in Woodstock on my way to the airport to squeeze Nugget, Squish, Mo, & Co one more time before flying back north. Nug kissed my hand a million times in the car on the way to lunch and Squish grinned and laughed in all the most adorable ways. There are no other car seats I’d rather be squeezed in between in the backseat than theirs. It was all great until the end when my anxiety exploded. Leaving is always the hardest part. 

You know that deep, soul-crushing cry? The kind that flattens your lungs and each breath feels like it’s trying to pass through a flattened straw to get inside? Fast hot tears that don’t yield to reason or logic – it’s just temporary. it’s not that far. you’ll be home soon. there’s always video chats and phone calls. Those are the tears I cry when I leave. 
I don’t know why it feels so painful, but it happens every single time. 1,300 miles isn’t far, isn’t final, isn’t too much of anything, but it has definitely shifted my perspective on things a bit. Life is so fleeting though we breathe like we’ll never stop. I cherish these moments with my people, so grateful for exactly who they are and the privilege to know them. What a wonderful, joy-filled time in the south full of warm friendships, laughter, and love. I could not be more richly blessed and I’m undone about it all the time.