It's nice to know that there's still room in my life for plenty of firsts. With as much crap as I've gone through, as many subjects as I've studied, places I've travelled, I can still find new experiences, new things to see and do.
I think I had my first real non-dysfunctional Thanksgiving this year, without being a "guest." Maria's family has embraced me to the point of making me one of their own, and although I still struggle with calling her parents "Mom" and "Dad," they have absolutely no problem giving me birthday cards addressed to their daughter and telling me to cover up and drive safely.
Of course, like every family, they have their problems. People get sick, disagree, forget things, whatever, but all the while, there is love.
I'm lucky to be receiving some of it.
To officially kick off the holiday season, with Christmas and my next trip home less than a month away, Maria took me to my first drive through Lights on the Lake, a Syracuse holiday tradition in Onondaga Lake Park. I'd driven through something similar in Springfield, MA while spending Thanksgiving with Jon in college, but even after having grown up in Syracuse, somehow I'd missed this annual ritual in my own hometown.
Big costumed characters greeted us at the entryway, including a big penguin. I think Eric would like this.
All the themes were pretty fantastical, and they kept getting more and more elaborate as we drove farther through.
If only that damn car wasn't always so close in front of us. We kept trying to stop to take pictures to give some space ahead but the car behind us kept getting antsy.
Watching all those reindeer and gingerbread men fly over our heads, while we listened to the Christmas radio station, really put me in the holiday spirit.
Or was I already in the spirit once Maria and I put the turkey in the oven and we all sat down around a table stuffing our faces with stuffing and actually talking to each other?