Friday, December 30, 2011

A week without planning before the calendar fills up

From today's Briefing:

I’m a native Texan who has often coveted four distinct seasons, the kind from storybooks. Where spring means daffodils and quiet rain, summer means pleasant backyard dinners, fall means brilliantly colored leaves that drop into piles perfect for leaping, and winter means soft snow for building snowmen and forts.
Instead, we get tornado warnings and suffocating heat and difficult-to-predict conditions for Halloween costumes and the occasional ice storm that shuts down a five-county area.
As long as I’m in Texas, I’ll miss out on idyllic, picture-perfect seasons — and continue to seek contentment with what we do have.
Besides, it’s not the weather that dictates the rhythm of the year in our house. Rather, the rhythm is decided by calendars related to school and Scouts, soccer and basketball, church and PTA.
For example, we’re about to enter the season of standardized testing. This year Cooper will take math on March 27, reading on March 28 and science on April 27. It’s never advisable to miss school unless you’re actually ill, but from now until tests (this year called STAAR) are over, classroom time is especially crucial.
At the same time, we’re entering an intense Cub Scout season: winter campout, Pinewood Derby (and all the prep that comes with it), food drive, race to complete advancements and finally the Blue and Gold Banquet in mid-February, at which Cooper will bridge to Boy Scouts.
Earlier that same day, he’ll play his first soccer game of the spring season. (Calling it “spring season” is cruel for those first few weeks, when the last of winter’s winds howl across elevated, treeless fields.)
Before all of those seasons begin, though, we’ve been enjoying the gift of this week — the quiet lull after the nonstop activity of Thanksgiving giving way to four weeks of Christmas.
In years past, I didn’t fully embrace the laziness that this week can offer. We usually fit in a museum visit or two. We might head to Fort Worth for some Cowtown culture. Rarely is there a day without a plan, without a reason to wake up with an alarm clock.
This year, though, I was worn out before the first Sunday in Advent. I didn’t want to deny Cooper and Katie the social fun of the season; I also didn’t want to collapse before Santa could visit.
My compromise: a plan to be free from plans for one week, to keep the days between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 free from obligation (except work). This week we’ve stayed up late, slept late, read books, put together Lego sets, played with American Girl dolls, watched movies at home.
When a friend called to ask if we could meet for lunch, I was able to say yes. Our calendar was wide open.
When another friend emailed with an invitation to bring the kids over to play with new toys, I was able to say yes.
I don’t feel ragged or rushed. I may even start 2012 feeling refreshed.
This season of leisure may be short-lived, but the week is a welcome respite after a full holiday season and before a whole bunch of new seasons.
You might even call it idyllic.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

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