I wrote this post a few years ago, when my best friend moved back to her home state of Minnesota (something I will never understand, especially as winter approaches).  And I’ve since lost my dog, whom I miss daily (I know a dog isn’t a “whom,” but she was to me). Anyway, all of the sentiments still hold true. Enjoy, and Happy Holidays!
By: Mary Fran Bontempo

This year, it’s tissues.

Every year, when the holidays roll around, I do the requisite reflecting, recalling those people, events and things for which I am grateful. Generally, I list all of the big ticket items: family, friends, home, work and so on. I’m always grateful for my dog, troublesome though she is, especially given her recent penchant for rising at 5:30 AM and begging to be let out. I’m grateful for food, the sustenance it provides and the comfort I get from a big, fattening chocolate chip cookie when I need a lift.

The “stuff” that makes my life easier inspires gratitude as well—cars (even though they don’t always work), computers (even though I’m borderline computer illiterate), everyday things like the washing machine and dryer. (I hate doing laundry, but scrubbing clothes on a rock and drying them on a tree branch hardly sounds appealing, so thank you, Kenmore.)

Yes, my annual gratitude-fest covers all of the expected blessings. But every once in a while, it’s fun to look deeper and express some appreciation for those little things often overlooked when holiday gratitude lists are compiled.

For example, electric hair dryers. When was the last time you didn’t use one? Every morning, I plug in the dryer, blast my head with a shot of warmed air and try to make myself presentable to the general public. Oh, it takes way more than the hair dryer, but on the occasions when I plug the thing in and it doesn’t turn on, the ensuing panic reminds me of just how important this overlooked device is to my morning painting and spackling.

And how about the microwave? A cup of tea in the morning with no kettle to rinse out and dry. A popcorn snack in five minutes to go along with a movie and couch snuggling. And best of all? A non-cook, nuked dinner of leftovers set on a single plate, no pots and pans to scrub.

But for the Bontempo women, one sorely ignored, everyday item is truly a gift: the lowly tissue.

We Bontempo girls are criers. We cry over everything, from Hallmark card commercials, to pictures of impounded puppies to re-runs of Full House. (Hey don’t laugh. Those little Tanner girls could really yank at a heartstring.)

Raising two daughters, I know a thing or two about tears. As in, there is virtually nothing that can’t cause a girl to cry. Most often, it’s boys, but it could just as easily be girlfriends, a miserably difficult chemistry class, not making the cut for a dance audition or even a person sitting alone in a restaurant. (Frankly, the idea of being alone in a restaurant fills me with visions of peaceful solitude, but my daughters liken it to solitary confinement.)

We go through copious amounts of tissues. Rare is the week when replacement boxes are missing from the weekly grocery list. My mother would say that the apples don’t fall far from the tree and she would be right. While I’ve managed to rein in my proclivity for bawling in my adult years, my youth was marked by perpetually swollen eyelids. It wasn’t pretty.

This holiday season, though, I’ll likely be besting my girls in the waterworks department. At a time of year when it’s all about family and friends, my best friend, Chris, is getting ready to move back to her familial home state of Minnesota. (Why anyone would move to Minnesota during the winter is beyond me, but she says she wants to. I’d have to be drugged and kidnapped to go to a state where the winter temperature hovers somewhere around 43 below zero.)

Since we met nine years ago, Chris and I have shared a lifetime of interests, laughter, joy, tears and love. Kindred spirits, we’ve sung together, shopped together, exercised together and generally kept each other grounded through alternating bouts of insanity. We’ve talked each other down from the ledge more times than either of us can remember and offered assurances over health issues real and imaginary. (No, the headache is not a brain tumor; it’s just a headache.) We’ve cried over crises with our children, our parents and each other. And we’ve laughed until we had to cross our legs because, well, use your imagination.

I’m trying not to think about her leaving because I will be truly bereft. But, at the holidays, it’s only fitting that I express gratitude for the blessing of a truly wonderful woman and the gift of her friendship. And while I’m at it, I’ll express thanks for the tissues that will dry the tears that come when she’s gone.