November always finds me in a mercurial temperment. On the one hand, I love the changes in the weather, and the approaching holiday season. On the other, November is a time of loss for our family. More years ago than I care to remember now, I lost a cousin to a horrific car wreck. We were very close in age, if not in companionship. His death changed me at a very pivotal point in my life.
November brings all the holiday preperation. Shopping, cooking. I never feel more a part of a family than this time of year. Clearly brought into focus is the idea that we are part of an unbroken line, stretching back into the past. Thanksgiving is more than a holiday of gluttony -- a chance to get together with people who are living seperate lives while still connected by the ever-increasingly tenuous connection of common blood.
Christmas is my favorite time of year. I love the decorating, the selecting of the perfect gift. The baking that fills the house with the smells that bring back so many memories of Christmases past. The magical way that some colored lights and paper ornaments lovingly crafted by children's hands can turn a hunk of wire and faux-pine bristles into a delight for the eyes. The family tradition of hanging the specific ornaments that are dear to us. The vague sense of panic that all of the craft projects I have planned as gifts won't be finished in time. The pervasive air of festivity, and the many small kindnesses shown to other people.
But November... November is a bittersweet mixture of grief and pain; love and holiday goodwill. Every November, I look at a picture of my young cousin, and wonder where he'd be now. Would he have gone on to college? What kind of job would he have wanted? Would he have gotten married, had a family? Instead, he's forever sixteen.
And November is the time that I embarked on the best part of my life. My wedding took place over Thanksgiving, and I've not yet stopped being thankful that I found what it was I was searching for all of those years. November makes me nostalgic in a way that the holidays can't touch. Sure, Christmas renews my hope that man isn't all bad, and I always delight in the surprises of the season like a child; but November.... November reminds me of what could have been. What could have happened. Both for good, and for bad. November makes me sweetly maudlin.
Every year, I await this time of year with anticipation and reluctance. I suppose life is like that, though.
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