Monday, November 29 2021

the feast, red lights, and cleaning the basement

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everybody. Happy Monday.

How's your energy level today? Does the chill in the air compel you to attack your to-do list or pick a forgotten corner of the house to clean? Or are you feeling the crushing doldrums of winter? Does the stagnant time between Thanksgiving and Christmas break feel like the cold, gusty wind in your face discouraging you from marching on? Today I'm feeling somewhere between the two, but I'm also thankful for the hot chemical comfort of coffee.

Sip. It was a long Thanksgiving weekend. On Thursday, we traveled to Chicago to spend the holiday with my family. My sister's family lives in Iowa now, so it felt extra special to congregate together under the same roof again. Additionally, our kids are officially old enough to shove unsupervised into the basement while we enjoy each other's company unbothered, which is both incredibly liberating as a parent, but also nostalgic as a former child. It makes me think of my own memories of paling around with my cousins in the basement.

"I am so excited for the feast," exclaimed Rodney on the long drive over. Rodney used this handle to refer to Thanksgiving all weekend, and I immediately grew fond of it. Where did we go? We drove to Chicago for the feast, of course. We sat down with my family for the feast. Oh, we'll be away for two days to attend the feast. It all sounds so much more festive than boring old "Thanksgiving dinner". You've got to love how kids can use their unlearned perspective to breathe fresh life into old traditions.

With such a perfect backdrop to the holiday weekend, it's hard to imagine anything bad happening. But hours before we sat down for the feast, disaster struck in the form of a tickle in the back of my throat. The throat tickle festered into a sore throat, then a stuffy nose. In no time, I was sneezing and hacking in the corner of the party. If you ask me, the ramp-up to a head cold is the worst part of the experience. The rest of the weekend, I did my best to keep distance. I was lucky that Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where it's socially acceptable to fall asleep on the couch while watching football. I power-napped my way through the rest of the holiday and did my best to avoid any further close contact.

Sleep. I slept on the way back, and I slept through all of black Friday. I even slept through our family's annual jarring pivot into Christmas. I awoke to our orange, leafy fall decorations corralled at one end of the dining room table. The rest of the house exploded with Christmas cheer.

While I slept, Marissa took Rodney to pick out our Christmas tree. As promised, she let Rodney pick out his own for his bedroom. For now, we can call it a privilege of being the first born.

And trying to foster self-expression, we let Rodney pick everything about his tree. He hand-picked each ornaments from Target. We kept a straight face while he insisted on hanging the big round orbs in dangling pairs around the branches. We stood by silently while he selected a fiery red Christmas lights. Red like Spider-Man. Red like the Chicago Bulls. All lit up, his Christmas tree radiated an eerie radioactive red glow.

"His bedroom looks like the red light district," laughed Marissa.

"It looks like Kramer's apartment in the episode where they build a Kenny Roger's Chicken outside his window," I laughed.


No, that's not a Dutch hooker in the window. That's just my son's Christmas tree.

Even though Rodney's tree blows his usual night-light out of the water, he insisted it wouldn't pose a problem. His tree has since embroiled us in a stand-off of whether or not we have the right to turn of the lights of while he's sleeping. This morning at the breakfast table, Rodney complained that he woke up to pee last night, and he had trouble finding the bathroom without the furious Martian glow of his Christmas lights. My best hope for winning this stand-off is a "cease and desist" letter from the nearby Burger King. Maybe they'll file a complaint if they feel Rodney's Christmas tree outshines their own red roof and inhibits foot traffic into the restaurant.

On Sunday, I turned a corner from my head cold and joined Marissa outside. Rodney and I raked leaves while she hung Christmas lights. The small chore stirred in me an urge to clean, and later that night I'd find myself rifling through clutter in the back corner of the basement while Marissa painted. I returned a few minutes later with a black garbage bag.

"Let's play a game," I said. "I have seven things in this bag that I'm positive you'll be OK throwing out, and I'd be willing to bet on it." We played a few rounds of this game, and while I had some misses, it proved to be a fun way to collaboratively clean the basement without breaking Marissa's painting concentration. Later in the night, while rifling through the drawers of an old night stand, I found a copy of The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller. It caught my eye because Marissa bought the book only a month ago, and we were planning on reading it next after we finished Tozer's The Root of the Righteous. Marissa was baffled.

"I don't know how it ended up in there," said Marissa. "It must have fallen into the drawer while I was rearranging things for Ducky's tank."

I laughed, imagining what would have happened if I didn't stumble onto the book while cleaning the back corner of the basement. We would have searched the whole house for it. We would have given up and just bought a new copy. I guess good things happen you clean the basement.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a great Monday, everyone.