The days before Christmas were filled with package wrapping, and treat-making, and reading Christmas stories by the twinkling lights of our nine foot tall Mint Cypress, which, disappointedly, doesn’t smell of Christmas. (We’ll be getting a Frazier Fir next year.)
After putting my boys to bed, I worked past midnight most days for two weeks, hustling to get every picture edited, and each gallery sent off to its family. I really do love it. But, when the final images were sent I did a big, happy dance in my head, excited for this month-long break of being completely present.
I didn’t get it together enough to make Christmas pictures, or even Christmas cards happen this year. But, I loved sitting with a handful of mail every afternoon, looking at the pictures of happy friends and family, and reading thoughtful notes sent from relatives far away.
All our presents were hid on the top shelf of our closet. We ordered a play kitchen at the 12th hour, and I spent hours Christmas Eve, and into the wee hours of Christmas morning, putting it together, knowing with every screw and bolt, that it would be worth allllll of tedious labor. It was of course, and I managed to watch a whole season of Friends, too. Our stockings were the stuffiest they’ve ever been. For Grace, we opted to do the want/need/wear/read, and I think she was as happy about her gifts as I was getting them for her. I just love the giving, and the magic of it all.
The slow, easy days before Christmas are days I am treasuring up in my heart. Waking with the sun, and then cuddling a bit before frying eggs for breakfast. I diffused Christmas Spirit, or a combination of Joy and Tangerine, wherever we were playing to lift our moods, and bring the Christmas carols to our lips. We took a trip to the library for Christmas books, but didn’t find any that were too exciting – I’d love to hear your favorites, for next year.
Ralphie latched onto Christmas with enthusiasm. He was thrilled to hang pretty ornaments on the tree, and memorized whose stocking was whose after the second try. We made gingerbread houses, watched Christmas movies, and read and reread The Jesus Storybook Bible’s Christmas sections. Nearly a month later Simon is still asking if babies we see at the grocery store are baby Jesus, and the character he seems to remember most is “evil king Herod.”
Christmas morning Ralphie woke early, and he and I tip-toed downstairs with the excitement reminiscent of my childhood. He gazed in wonder at the lit tree, and presents everywhere, and a lump of emotion swelled in my throat. So much gratitude.
We snuggled together for a bit, in the dark, and talked about Jesus, and presents, and love. Then, as the sun trickled through the windows he noticed the new kitchen, and leapt out of my lap in a flash. He made me a feast of soup and pizza and eggs, until Daddy and Simon joined us around 8:30. We let them open their new books, read those twice through each, before marching loudly up the stairs to wake Grace.
Ralphie was our leader, giving gifts to everyone, encouraging each person to show what they got, insisting on opening each package to see how everything worked, and no matter how delighted he was with each present (and he was VERY), he was excited to move on to the next. Simon was more reserved, quietly taking it all in, determined to still eat his breakfast, content with whichever gift was handed to him, and reluctant to move towards the next. Grace hardly said a word, smiled only a little, but let us know in small ways that she was close to happy. Holidays are especially hard for her. And my husband and I caught each other’s eyes a dozen and one times, to smile and exchange knowing glances. These are the sweet days of parenthood we will remember forever.
Per Grace’s request, Charlie Brown’s Christmas soundtrack played quietly in the background, and I brought a tray of fruit salad with a sugary orange glaze, and bacon, and Christmas punch for breakfast in the family room. We took our time, smiled and hugged and kissed a lot.
It really felt that Christmas this year was as close to the imperfectly perfect as our life could get. I told Daniel, I wish this day would last forever. It was a balm of healing, amidst the ache of a weary world.
“A thrill of hope the weary word rejoices, for yonder breaks a new, and glorious morn.”