For the last thirty years on Christmas morning I’ve gone for a run on a golf course north of my in-laws’ house in Addison, Illinois. But with family dynamics shifting around for our clan, we’ll be out in the Fox Valley on December 25 to open gifts with my wife-to-be’s kids.
And that’s okay. My Christmas run is not part of some streak I care about. I would never, for instance, insist on being in Addison that morning just to go for that run. Honestly, some of those runs were less than stellar. More than one year I huffed and puffed for two or three miles and happily dragged my Santa ass back to the house for some orange juice and gingerbread cookies.
Other years when I felt good or fit I’d do seven or eight miles. Some years were snowy and I had to stick to the roads. Then there were years when the temps were in the mid-60s and I jogged around a soggy golf course trying to avoid the winter’s collection of goose poop.
I suddenly can’t recall if I squeezed in those runs before we opened presents, but that seems like the case. That way I could safely eat what I wanted and not worry about holding off before a run. My stomach has never been happy about running with food in it. With most foods, it takes at least two hours to digest and be ready to run.
After a quick shower in the lone bathroom in the house, it was nice to put the slippers back on and kick around the house with the family for a while. The run sort of cleared my head after an often busy Christmas Eve running around to services and other homes and families.
Over the years, we had decided to dial back the Christmas giving. Not for reasons of economics, but to simplify the feeling of sharing time together. We’d do a drawing and get one bigger gift for the person we selected. For the rest of the family we found fun things to purchase. Each of us developed a style of sorts. My brother-in-law gave gadgety stuff and toys. My daughter made candles, pretzels and soaps. My son often put together a series of clues we all had to decipher together in order to get the meaning of his gifts to us.
Some years, this had the pleasant effect of making us all think as one. Because like the various nations affected by space visitors in the movie The Arrival, it helps to think together to think alike.
But we lost some members of our tribe these last five years, and my mother-in-law likes things super simple now. Her faith in Christ is one that does not require celebration to sustain. She loves family, but the long days of perpetual parties are over. She tires from too much company, and too long. So we’re all adapting. And that means my casual run streak is over.
Instead I’ll run from home this year. It’s supposed to be raining on Christmas Day, which is a bit of a bummer usually. I much prefer the delicate clip and chick of fresh cold snowflakes landing on their brethren and sisters. The crunch of running shoes on fresh snow is not a bad thing either. But you can’t have everything in this world. Nor would you want it if you had it.
And in that light, I wish you all a Merry Christmas if that is your tradition. And for those of you who travel in different circles, may you find your own path joyous and bright.