Presence, Play, and Oreo Truffles

Every year during the holidays, memes circulate on Facebook illustrating the daunting task of remembering what day of the week it is. My favorite one homes in on the no man’s land between Christmas and New Year, the time period characterized by feeling “confused” and “full of cheese.”

I relate so deeply to that meme this year. You’d think after nine months of telecommuting and virtual schooling and not going anywhere ever that the holidays wouldn’t feel substantially different, but you’d be wrong. We have definitely been living in some sort of space/time continuum over the past couple weeks.

Our weak attempts at order and routine – tenuous at best, given our pandemic lifestyle – have broken down entirely. My kids have taken to riding their scooters and skateboards in the house. There’s a giant basket of laundry parked in the foyer near the front door (because heck, no one is using that door anyway) and I have no idea if it is clean or dirty.

Chocolate-dipped Oreo truffles have become a breakfast staple. The kids and I have been binge-watching a ridiculous Disney+ show about fairytale characters living in the modern world. And I legitimately lost track of what day it was on more than one occasion.

It’s been great.

This isn’t the first time I have been struck by the moments of unexpected joy that I have found in being confined to the house with my children. It’s been incredibly hard – don’t get me wrong. There has been a lot of shouting and a lot of tears and so many slammed bedroom doors that I threatened to take them off the hinges.

But it’s beautiful, too. If there is something better than piling onto the couch for family movie time with fuzzy blankets and hot chocolate, I don’t know what it is.

As we head into 2021, the thing that I want to carry with me is the commitment to being present. That has been a struggle at times this year. When you’re working from home, the lines between professional and personal life can start to erode and it’s all too easy to find yourself checking work email at the dinner table or stepping away from a game of Clue to finish up a grant report.

Fortunately, my kids are more than happy to help me focus on them. Yes, there is a certain wryness to those words, but there is also truth. My twelve-year-old polices the dinner table, making sure that no electronics dare make an appearance. My son patiently explains for the umpteenth time which Ninjago Lego figures have which powers and why this information is of critical importance. My younger daughter wants to know how to spell “favorite” so she can finish making a greeting card for the dog.

As we hunker down this winter, waiting for spring and vaccinations, I want to enjoy the opportunities for connection afforded by our solitude. I want to play board games and do puzzles and dig the karaoke machine out of the attic. I recognize that it is simplistic to think that movies and tea parties are the magic cure for the long winter months ahead – but they’re also all we’ve got.

So bring on the Oreo truffles.

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