Posts Tagged ‘friends’

Breaking with tradition

Now that I’ve recovered from my post-Thanksgiving daze, I have a confession to make: I did absolutely nothing for Thanksgiving. And I loved every minute of it.

I am becoming a fan of tossing tradition into the fireplace and cozying up while it burns bright.

I’m not anti-social or anti-holiday. I had invitations for Thanksgiving, but I was perfectly happy staying in my PJs all day, reading, napping, watching movies. I had chicken pot pie and pumpkin pie. Heaven. After working on Friday, I did much the same for the rest of the weekend. Had my family stayed in town this year, I would have joined them for dinner. But it was a delicious indulgence to do what everyone else wasn’t.

Breaking with tradition

Christmas is evolving in similar ways. When my parents died a few years ago, the Christmas Eve tradition of our family gathering was passed on to me — which I was thrilled about. My sister and I agreed we’d create new traditions. Last year we hit on the perfect plan: brunch with coffee, lox and bagels and mimosas. Perfect for our Protestant/Buddhist family. I keep my mother’s tradition of serving plum pudding with hard sauce alive by making gingerbread cupcakes topped with hard sauce (basically buttercream frosting with brandy). No one really liked the plum pudding much anyway.

Maybe that tradition will evolve over time, as will my longstanding dislike of going out on New Year’s Eve unless it’s something I’d enjoy doing any other night of the year. I’ve hosted New Year’s Day Hair-of-the-Dog parties and will probably do so again. I also go to an annual party the Saturday after New Year’s where I see many of my friends. My celebrations don’t need to be ruled by the calendar.

My holidays aren’t dominated by shopping, either. Years ago, I vowed never to set foot in a mall during the holidays and I’ve stuck to it. I shop local, go to art sales or buy online. I enjoy the holidays so much more.

Breaking with traditionI think traditions are lovely and wonderful, and there are small things I’ll always want to do, like hanging my childhood stocking by the fireplace. But I think sometimes we get so wrapped up in how we think the holidays are supposed to be that we don’t consider how we want them to be.

Sure, we all have obligations that can’t be shirked. But if you stop and think about it, there are a lot of “have-tos” that you really don’t have to do. So take a second look at that list, and keep what’s nice and ditch whatever you can that’s not-so-nice.

Create your own traditions and revel in them. I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate the people you love. Including yourself.

Taking a compliment and passing it on

Some people don’t like compliments. Not me. You’ll never hear me cry, “Don’t say something nice about me!” By the same token, when someone is particularly effusive, my gut instinct is to be equally gushing in my gratitude. That can get kind of icky for everyone, despite my good intentions.

Case in point: My great friend (and even greater writer/editor) Jim McFarlin wrote an unexpected and lovely tribute to me on his Just Kidneying blog. I’ll share it here, partly out of appreciation but also to urge you to follow and read this amazing chronicle of his journey with kidney disease. He always has a sense of humor and possesses one of the most infectious laughs on the planet. Kidney disease won’t get this man down and everything he writes is worth a read.

But beyond my gobsmacked reply to his post, I realized I could do more. I could return the favor of surprising someone with praise they might not expect. So I’m going to compliment my dearest friend, who everyone knows as Pitzi. Except in Italy, where she lives, because it just confuses them.

Taking a compliment and passing it on

I’ve known Pitzi since junior year of high school, where we quickly became partners in crime. I encouraged her to expand her musical horizons beyond James Taylor and soon we were singing “Young Parisians” by Adam & The Ants together at the bus stop.

Whatever I may have taught her, however, is nothing in comparison to what she’s taught me. First, she is the smartest person I’ve ever met. And I’m pretty darned smart and know a lot of really smart people. But she’s brilliant. She moved to Italy more than 20 years ago to be with and marry her true love. But I think Italy appeals to her because living anywhere else just wouldn’t be enough of a challenge for her genius. It’s a really complicated country to live in.

That’s only the beginning. She’s raising three children (two still young enough to be at home) who are bilingual thanks to her. She works crazy hours as a freelance translator. Pitzi also runs the household because, well, no offense to anyone but that’s just the way things are in much of Italy. Her husband is a really good guy who adores her, but she still has to do the cooking and the laundry and myriad other tasks. I was very proud the day she announced she’d hired a cleaning lady.

Even though she has an extended family in Italy and the United States, along with other friends to look after, she always has time to take my phone calls. Even when there’s a screaming child in the background, she’s there for me. (Okay, sometimes she asks me to call back in a few minutes after the “I want!” crisis has passed, but still….)

When my parents were both gravely ill and died within a year of each other, she was among the friends who got me through. After the ordeal was over, she invited me to Italy where she would not let me lift a finger, buy a grocery or do anything but relax, play, eat and drink with her. “You’ve been taking care of everyone else,” Pitzi said. “Now it’s time to let someone take care of you.”

She’s the one person who knows absolutely everything about me. I attribute her uncanny advice-giving skills to this knowledge. Pitzi can also make me laugh harder than anyone in the world, which is sometimes better than any advice. She has never failed to encourage me or celebrate my triumphs large and small. When she says to me, “You rock!” I know she means it. And I believe it about myself, too, because how could you question someone so smart?

Pitzi knows how much I love her. But I don’t always get to say how much I admire her loyalty, her determination, her patience, her diligence, her strength. I don’t always get to tell her how grateful I am for her humor, her friendship and her enormous heart.

Well, now I’ve gone and gotten all sentimental. Pitzi can take a compliment, but I’ve reached the sappiness saturation point so I’ll stop. Except to say that if you have a best friend like Pitzi, I hope you’ll take a moment to tell her or him, “You rock.”