I grew up in Western Pennsylvania. I still live here. While going to school I lived in a few other places. For a few years I lived outside of Philadelphia. The winters there were wet. The summers were humid. The spring was amazing. I lived in Vermont for two years. The summer was short. The winters were snowy, extremely cold and long. The fall was stunning. I lived in my mother’s native Tucson, AZ for most of a year. The desert was fascinating, the mountains to the north were dramatic and I loved seeing the foothills covered with saguaro cacti. It was sunny every day, and the winter was mild. When summer came, no matter how dry the heat is, 110 is unbearably hot. I missed the sound of streams and dew on the grass. After I finished school, I came home to Western Pennsylvania.
The seasons here feel right to me. Each one feels the right length and the right intensity. I had a friend move here for work who called it Gotham City. She asked, “Does the sun ever shine here?” It is cloudy here, but I hadn’t noticed.
It’s the same for me around the holidays. What I grew up with feels right to me. Advent calendars are a must. The Christmas tree is covered with a mish mash of ornaments from the past without any sort of theme. The gifts from Santa aren’t wrapped. There’s an orange at the bottom of each stocking. It’s not really the only way to celebrate, but it feels that way.
My mother found this time of year difficult. There were six of us and our collective expectations were overwhelming. I notice this same feeling welling up in me at this time of year. I want to love it and enjoy it but I’m overwhelmed by all of the expectations swirling around me like the clouds of Western Pennsylvania.
Yesterday, we opened the first window of the Advent calendar.