Norman Rockwell life? Pretty darn close

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor


Decades ago when I first married, I was determined to have a Norman Rockwell existence in my family.

I had not grown up that way, but I knew it existed because Donna Reed, June Cleaver and Margaret Anderson assured me weekly that I could have it all.

But by the time I was in the full throes of marriage and children, along came Roseanne and I then knew that THIS was the way working class families lived – and loved.

OK, so maybe my life wasn't as melodramatic as the Connors, but neither have I ever worn pearls and high heels while cleaning the house.

Every time I thought of having the perfect holiday season, something invariably happened that sent it askew.

Now decades later, I don't even dream about perfect holidays. Living in Florida, 600 miles from my children and best friend, I rarely have had opportunities to be with them during holidays and at best make the most of the week before or the week after a big event.

This year I made the choice to be with my family and friends for Christmas – if only in a 36-hour whirlwind blitz.

Christmas Eve, Tom and I set off for Georgia, arriving at best friend Denise's house late and just in time for adult libations and conversation that lasted until three in the morning.

Up early Christmas Day, Tom visited his daughter while I stayed to help Denise prepare for a Christmas buffet for 24 people and assorted dogs.

After the evening meal, I took off to visit with my daughter, Allison, her husband, Jeremy and Jeremy's son, Grant. I arrived in time to watch Grant open Santa presents and then, my middle son, Nick, walked in the door. I was amazed. It was the first time in seven years we'd been together on Christmas. All that was missing was Spencer, the youngest and his wife, Ashley.

I returned to Denise's at 9 p.m. and we quickly exchanged our gifts now that the crew was gone.

And then Spencer called. Were we coming to spend the night? I told him it would be 11 p.m. before we arrived, since it's a 45-minute drive. No worries, he said. 

And so we left.

Our visit with him and Ashley continued until the wee hours, and picked up again Friday morning. He had a golf date and when he left, so did we.

Tom and I arrived back in Williston 48 hours after we had left it, exhausted but happy because it was a nearly perfect Christmas. Neither of us sleeping much was a minor detail.

Monday night/Tuesday morning, Spencer and Ashley let themselves in at our house some time around two and for the next five days we ate, we played games and we talked – a lot.

We even rang in the new year with good friends in Chiefland and spent most of New Year's Day in our PJs eating, laughing and talking about every thing under the sun.

When they left Saturday afternoon, the house was oddly quiet but my heart was singing loudly.

After decades of wanting the Norman Rockwell-like holiday, I had as close to it as possible. It was the best gift I received this year, and I'm counting on more just like it in the years to come.