Holidays are hard. Not the big ones. You can fake your way through those. The small ones. That’s where the holes are glaring. With Christmas and Thanksgiving, family come over. We sit around and eat ham, turkey, potato casserole, green beans, you know- the healthier stuff that I’m willing to list. Of course, I could have written how we always have as many sweets as we do healthy food (which by the way is a loose term in the South- it just means not sweet.) And to be completely honest, I’m including sweet potato casserole and strawberry pretzel salad in the healthy sides because they have some healthy words associated with them- potato and salad. Good enough for me.
We eat and laugh and yell at the kids to close the door as they come lumbering in and out a million times, covered in nature and pied pipering the state’s cartel of horseflies. The adults usually group up and go shopping or to the movies. Guess which group I make. Vacation fits in with the big holidays too. Because there’s an agenda, a purpose. You know where you’re going and what you’re doing. And if you don’t, you’ll figure it out because you’re somewhere new and normal rules don’t apply. You don’t have to be as thrifty, no bedtimes, no food rules (as if above made you think we’re strict food rule people.)
But these in-between holidays are hard. Long weekend holidays. Labor day and Memorial Day and Veterans Day and MLK Day and such. There’s an expectation from my kids to do something fantastic since they’re out of school. Out of school means adventure. All I can think of is the complications that come with performing and pleasing when I just want to lay on the couch and take naps. Like multiple naps. I would just take one full-day long nap, but I usually get woken up by a full-mouthed decibel destroying kid or a slimy tongued dog lick to the face. So naps. Plural.
There’s this pressure that I feel on the inside that life is flying by so fast and I have to make memories. I already have two of my three kids in middle school! And I dread the thought of my kids having this memory of Dad sleeping through the adventure. I envision us sitting around the dinner table years from now, me nodding off as I hear one of them say, “Remember how we learned to tip toe across the crackling hardwood floor so we wouldn’t wake dad up while he took one of his holiday-sleep-life-away-rip-van-winkle-lost-opportunity-all-day slumbers?”
“Yeah, dad is the heaviest sleeper. Remember how he slept through our childhoods?” One would say through a diluted grin. And I would awaken to all of them staring and laughing at me. I would laugh along with them so that we could all pretend like it didn’t matter, but deep down, I would sense the resentment and regret from them.
You know, that’s what the evil mind will do- play out the whole thing to its worst possible conclusion.
That’s what small holidays do. There’s a simple rhythm of a normal day to the routine of school, sports practices, dinner, homework, and bedtime prayers. No pressure because there’s no room for memories. No one remembers every common dinner or monotonous history report. But those danged short holidays. They scream at me, “Do something! Rent a hot air balloon. Go canoeing. Go deep sea fishing. Take them paint balling, mountain bike riding. Search for hidden treasure, make a movie, build a fort, climb a mountain, go rustle some cattle. Do something! Do anything but nap. Rest is for the weak, those who don’t care about memories.”
So we float through the big holidays. They come and go and just are. They’re simple and easy and then they’re gone. We make happy memories and live traditions and look forward to the next year where we get to do it again, mindless, but far from meaningless. But a small holiday makes me aware of an emptiness that echoes when it’s over. Like an ache or a reminder that it wasn’t whole. That if things were different, then things would be different. That it wasn’t enough. A missed opportunity. A lost possibility. A Labored Day.