There and…well, Still There

One of my favorite days of the year is December 21st: Yule, also known as the Winter Solstice. This is the shortest day of the year and the longest night, marking the return of the light to the world and increasingly brighter days, which I’ve found makes me rather happy. It’s a bit of an emotional New Year, inspiring me to a new outlook on life.

I spent most of December 21st, 2013 crying like my heart was broken.

My little sister Soteria called that morning to tell me two things: that Mom and Dad had arrived safely at her house in Charleston, SC from their home in FL the night before, and that she’d gotten the results of her MRI. Turns out the reason her right side had been numb off and on for three months was a severely herniated disc in her neck that was pressing so hard into her spinal cord it was bruising it and cutting off the flow of spinal fluid. But this was nothing compared to Dad, who was apparently in so much pain from his arthritis that he was having a hard time moving around. He’d been telling us over the phone how fine he was, and as soon as Soteria discovered just how fine he wasn’t, she called.

I’m not sure if I cried on the phone, but I certainly sobbed all the rest of that morning.  I forced myself to relax enough to finish my ARC of Sarah Addison Allen’s Lost Lake (which you all need to buy immediately when it comes out in a few weeks, BTW). Sarah’s novels contain a lot of family and a little bit of magic, with a sprinkle of the South and a side helping of hope…and when I turned the last page, I had an epiphany.

There was absolutely no good reason why I wasn’t in Charleston.

Joe and I wouldn’t be picking up his daughters and heading to his parents’ house until Christmas Day anyway, which was the same day my parents planned on driving back to Florida from Charleston, since Dad had to return to work. I talked with Joe — we decided I’d leave immediately for Charleston, and then drive to his parents’ house on Christmas Day from there. I’d only arrive at his parents’ a few hours later than we planned, and were going to take two cars anyway, to accommodate presents. I showered and threw a bunch of stuff in a suitcase. Joe gave me the keys to his car, on which we’d just put new tires, and helped me load the trunk with the Christmas presents my family had all painstakingly mailed to me in multiple boxes over the past few weeks.

I felt a little guilty about driving all their presents back to them…but not too much.

I was on the road by 3pm and in Charleston a little after midnight. I had told Soteria and her husband that I’d be coming, but my parents didn’t know. My family has come to my rescue many a time over the years, and now it was my turn. Needless to say, surprising my parents when they heard voices and shuffled out of the bedroom at 1am was one of the most wonderful moments of my life.

Our tired little family had a magical early Christmas morning on December 22nd, full of songs and presents and love. The next two days were filled with the very emotional closing of Soteria’s retail shop in Charleston, and conference calls with our aunt–Dad’s sister–in Baltimore about what to do about Soteria’s MRI.

On Christmas Day, I didn’t drive to Joe’s parents’ house. Instead, Soteria and I got in the car and spent 13 hours driving to Baltimore. On December 30th she had surgery, and we spent New Year’s Eve together in a top floor corner room of Johns Hopkins hospital watching fireworks over the Baltimore Harbor.

Soteria is doing great. We’re recovering at my aunt’s house in Baltimore. Since I don’t have any book events scheduled until Marscon, I’ll be staying here with Soteria. Her follow-up appointment in January 8th, at which point the doctor is sure she’ll be able to fly back to Charleston…and then Dad flies into Baltimore on the 11th for his appointment at Johns Hopkins.

January 11th is also my birthday.

So while it looks like 2014 is shaping up to be yet another fantastical, whirlwind chapter of the adventure that is my life, let’s talk about what I’m most proud of in all this: MY SUITCASE.

I left home at the spur of the moment–packing for three days in sunny Charleston, SC. This could have been a major disaster (Baltimore is significantly less sunny). But for once, my many years of conventioning served me well and I have with me everything I need.

Contents of Alethea’s Magical Suitcase:
underwear & socks & bras
bathroom bag
makeup
yoga pants
jeans
three t-shirts (to both wear and sleep in)
sports bra & running shorts
cute short dress
short black skirt and two nice shirts
1 pair of sneakers
1 pair of mary janes

I’m not saying it’s the most *compact* suitcase-packing ever, but I didn’t care, because I was driving.  I had a dress for both the Dixie Dunbar Christmas Eve/Closing party and New Year’s Eve, I had a skirt to wear for the party on New Year’s Day when Nana and I made loukoumades for 3 hours, and my aunt has a small gym in her basement for which I am 100% prepared. (I should add that the suitcase was made even more perfect by the addition of my TARDIS  hoodie, which I’ve been wearing almost every day since early-Christmas. Thanks, Mom!)

Sure, I do laundry every 3 days. Sure, I’ll be sick of these clothes eventually. And I suppose I could go out and buy more things, but I don’t need to.

Somewhere in Northern Virginia there is a tiny Christmas tree in our apartment with unwrapped presents under it for me, and I won’t get to them until after my birthday. It’s a little strange, but so is life. The journey is what it’s all about.

Just make sure you’re packed for it.

*grin*

My question for you guys is: What are some of the items in your suitcase *you* can’t live without?

Happy New Year to all!! xox