Letting Christmas settle naturally into its place

Letting Christmas settle naturally into its place

There’s always so much to be thankful for, we say: a roof over our heads, food on the table, a pair of shoes to slip on as well as a warm coat. I’ve always lived in a place where, even though there wasn’t an abundance of “earthly riches,” there was always enough. Thanksgiving will soon come and go, and the brightly lit path to Christmas will be full steam ahead, barreling down a series of weeks that brings you crashing into the madness.

This isn’t an article on forgetting the magic of Christmas. As I write, there are 45 days until Christmas, and I felt a surge rush into my veins, an adrenaline that only the “getting ready for Christmas season” can bring. I’m over here with my pumpkins freezing on the porch, glittery skeleton heads and catrinas barely put away from Halloween, and here it is already 45 days away. Is there something more than the vicious sprint to each holiday?

When the kids were smaller and we took trips to Mexico for Christmas to visit my husband’s family, we forewent presents because driving down there was Christmas enough. We gathered gifts for the family and stacked our belongings high on top of our mini-van, the lumpy load enough chuckles for 1,000 miles, and set off on a five-day trek.

Through Ohio, Kentucky and into Tennessee and on through Arkansas and Texas, we made our way — five souls winding their way to the Mexican border, stopping at tiny diners and cafes along the way, until we stumbled into the South Texas region. After we passed through immigration, gathering up our easily obtained tourist cards and visas, we pressed on.

The foggy beauty of Northern Mexico greeted us, and we traveled south through Monterey, Saltillo, through rugged terrain into San Luis Potosi, the beautiful area of Queretaro and into Pachuca, and finally into the area around Mexico City, where we found my husband’s small town of Maquixco. There, family surrounding, we unpacked our things and settled into his mom’s house for the holidays.

But the trip there, it’s always what I remembered: the vast, rugged beauty and towering mountains we drove through. The smell of a cold morning and freshly built fires with smoke wafting upward will transport me to any byway in Mexico, the crumbly taste of fresh bread and hot coffee brewed in a vat of steamy goodness.

The kids never missed gifts under a tree and instead played on the dusty streets in a small village, kicking the soccer ball and catching up with their cousins. I, as well, never missed the frantic run-up into Christmas, the gathering and gleaning of gifts and finery, wrapping paper and tinsel, that would fill every corner of the room.

We would walk the square of the zocalo, the center of town, lined with festive vendors of tiny wooden manger scenes and steamy churros you could dip in thick hot chocolate. It was a balm for a weary Christmas traveler, hitting just the right spots to take away anxiety-driven shopping days left until Christmas and tuck them away. The drive to display Christmas didn’t exist there, just the need to walk through it.

And when the Christmas morning dawned and we sat around a table heating up tamales, I knew a different peace than the one I experienced at home. We were satiated, and when we drove back home through the landscape of my husband’s country, our hearts were filled with a different kind of holiday. We found much through little, and it was enough.

I love our Christmas here in Holmes County. But I find myself questioning my need, a drive really, to put Christmas “on” and have it be perfect. More and more I’m wanting to simplify and streamline, not get out all the glitz and finery. I want natural, maybe a small budget to buy pointed, well-thought-out gifts instead of the mad rush for more, more, more. I’m looking inside myself to see what can be changed to save the season from instead of being wearying to being one of peace.

Melissa Herrera is a columnist, published author and drinker of too many coffees. You can find her book, “TOÑO LIVES,” at www.tinyurl.com/Tonolives or buy one from her in person (because all authors have boxes of their own novel). For inquiries or to purchase, email her at junkbabe68@gmail.com.