While I was in Birmingham on the weekend before Thanksgiving, the inevitable November storm passed through. It had been a pleasant warm day but after dark a thunderstorm blew up accompanied by a strong wind; the leaves – many of which had barely turned – began to swirl around and cover the back yard. By the next morning, sunny skies were flirting with freezing temperatures and the back yard was a wind-blown mess.
Mother’s house is on a slope of Shades Mountain with a back yard ending at a steep bluff that looks down onto the Oxmoor Valley. The Oxmoor Furnaces – the first blast furnaces in this area – used to stand in that valley more than a century ago. Now it’s a valley of industrial buildings, residential areas, and golf courses. At the end of the day after the storm, when it was almost dark at Mother’s house, I peered over the fence into the valley below where the setting sun was still making a final brilliant show across the valley before nightfall.
I am a hot weather guy but that first rush of cold air in Alabama, which always makes a dramatic entrance, is full of energy. It is usually a harbinger of the holiday season, usually happening just a few days before Thanksgiving.
Of course, temperatures were back in the 70s by the beginning of the week. Cold snaps rarely last long here. But that sudden chill gives a new urgency to the impending holiday season and I went ahead and made the reservation for my annual December trip to Point Clear on Mobile Bay. The resort is undergoing extensive renovations so it will be an adventure to see what is finished and what is still underway. I already know that the spa will be a work in progress but was still able to book a massage with Claudia, an amazing massage therapist who has been treating me every December for over a decade now.
As much as I like Thanksgiving, it is also the preamble to a hectic time at work. When I return to classes on Monday, there is only a week of classes left and for some of my students that becomes a week of excuses about late or missing assignments leading to final exam week and fall graduation. Graduation always brings its own challenges as we often go up to the last minute before we know for sure that all of our majors who plan to graduate have fulfilled the requirements to do so.
That push to the end of the semester and graduation makes a Christmas break even more welcome and necessary. The news of the nation and of the world is chilling, foreboding, and depressing but the holidays provide a welcome – if temporary – distraction. They make the long nights and cooler temperatures more bearable and provide a bit of a breather in the midst of work and personal stress and concerns. The promise of new beginnings and the fervent hope for a better year ahead lend an extra sparkle to the season of lights.
May your Thanksgiving be stress-free.