Ah, now I remember. All of this stress, strain and headache had an ultimate purpose. It was all designed to get us to today, when we could put on the brakes, relax (those of us not responsible for putting a feast on the table for everyone else), and enjoy each other's company. That's what it's all for. That's why we go through it. First the shopping ritual, then the real payoff. Is it worth it? Oh, yeah.
All the thought and effort I put into finding exactly the right gifts for everyone paid off, as far as I'm concerned. I didn't find anything exactly right, but as far as I know I didn't disappoint anyone — even though I didn't make anyone's day as much as they made mine. I got a lot of cool stuff, but the big present was my new DVD player. It's from Suzanne, John, Eric and David, and it's perfect. (And it works! I know, because the first thing I did when I got home tonight was set it up and try it out.) (Also, now I can use the Best Buy gift certificate Mom gave me for more new movies.)
So how can I say being together is what the holiday is all about and then talk about my haul? But while I'm at it, I also got a Harry Potter bookmark, a Harry Potter spin pop, and a Snape collectible figure (with potion bottles). And that's not even all! But I'll stop now before everyone gets insanely jealous. (I'm listening to my new Steve Tyrell CD as I write.)
Anyway, the family gathered at Suzanne's for dinner and merriment. Our whole world stops on this one day of the year. Everyone who has so much to do and so many places to go all the rest of the time manages to find their way to the table. We tell old family stories and laugh at each other's jokes. Maybe some of us wish it could be this way all the time, but it's not, and since it's not, we have to take advantage of these chances to escape from the pressures of the outside world.
We've had losses this year, personal ones and very public ones. What we've lost makes what we still have so much more precious. We don't need a holiday to remind us that we still have each other to lean on, and cheer us up when we're down, and surround us with hope and love. We don't need a holiday for that, but I'm glad we have one, and I'm glad this one came at just this moment.
We all lead such complex lives, and most of the time they take us away from the people we love the most. We have jobs and friends and obligations, and all those things are important. They're part of who we are, but so is the life we have together. Outside, there's danger and excitement, but back home we find safety and comfort. If we didn't have holidays, we might forget that there's a place we can always come to when we need it.
We drift away from each other, for whatever reason, but we're lucky because we can always come home. Sometimes we do it kicking and screaming, maybe, but other times just because it's the one place we know for sure we're not lost. When someone wanders off in his bathrobe to talk to the gardener about hose bibs, the rest of us have to put an arm around his shoulder and guide him back to the living room.