Dec. 26, 2014
I'm sitting at the table in the small kitchen area of our cabin. The fridge is humming behind me. And, to the side of me, a strand of colored Christmas lights – draped and wound (haphazardly) over a window and around a lamp – are glowing extra cozily (all offset by round log walls as they are).
It's not incredibly late, but it feels late – what with only the one lamp and the one strand of lights on (in an otherwise dark cabin); and what with the kids all tucked away in beds and nooks; and Mike – after a full day of skiing with the older three – having dropped off to sleep right on the floor in the loft just above me.
I'm thinking back to yesterday morning – Christmas. Trying to imagine again how, for a few brief hours, life stood still. I felt no rush, no need to accomplish, no need to prepare or tidy. Our first true snow of the season had fallen quietly all through the night – nature wrapping itself in its own version of paper and bows for Christmas morning. Christmas music was playing. And the house which, only hours before, had been tidy, was covered in wrapping paper, discarded boxes, candy wrappers and half chewed marshmallow Santas. Kids were putting together Legos and reading instructions to new games; they were practicing Christmas songs on new handbells (those were a big hit by the by) and driving Thomas the train (along with Henry and Toby). I was snuggled on the couch happily taking it all in while Summer had her first go in a bouncy chair and Mike put batteries in various toys and freed other toys from the wires that held them bound to the boxes they came in.
For most of December, I fretted, off and on, that I wasn't giving my kids a proper dose of tradition and magic and memories. I kept feeling like a failure because life just wouldn't stop. I couldn't make it stop. Time kept going so quickly, and days were so full of homework, and concerts, and necessary chores, and baby feedings and comfortings, and laundry, and dinners, and birthdays (ohhhh December birthdays . . .). And I never did figure out how to put all those demands on hold while I spun a web of twinkly lights, baking, and snowy adventure (never mind that we had no snow until Christmas) all around my children.
Gingerbread houses were made amidst tidying up the house for home teachers to visit and trying to get Summer settled for an after-church nap. Christmas carols were sung in a it's-way-past-bed-time-but-we-have-to-stick-some-sort-of-Christmas-into-this-day-so-we-will-only-sing-three fashion. Neighbor treats were baked and delivered between finishing school projects, making dinner, and running kids to various places.
Somehow though, as I basked in the perfect contentment of those Christmas morning hours – the hours where all other demands finally did let up – I felt a spark of hopefulness. It occurred to me that all the magic had been there. Perhaps I’d never managed to present it “stand alone”. It had to be tucked in here, and squeezed in there, but it was there all the same. I could see it, dotted all through the month – shining out definitely and brightly from the mundane and the necessary and the stressful. There had been a hot cocoa party and a treasure hunt. There had been advent calendars and the excitement of not knowing what was in the latest Amazon box to arrive on our doorstep (and be hurriedly locked in mom and dad's closet). There had been names drawn, presents picked out, Santa's reindeer visited, Christmas movies watched, and Star Mother's Youngest Child read.
I need to remember that next time I start fretting. My job isn't to somehow stop life from needing to be lived in its normal and hard ways. In fact, taking care of all of that normal living is pretty crucial. But the fact that the necessary exists (and demands near constant attention), doesn’t diminish the magic of the bits and pieces of joy and happiness and marshmallow Santas that I stick in with it.
Also . . . Goldie bought me a poinsettia. The kids drew names amongst themselves for Christmas Eve gifts, but Daisy and Goldie insisted on getting extra gifts even for those whose names they hadn’t drawn. Several days before Christmas Goldie made me wait in the car while she did some stealth shopping – shopping which included, among other things, a poinsettia for me and some striped toe-socks for Penny. (Later, after we’d opened our gifts, I loved thinking back and trying to picture little her . . . all alone, bringing her socks, and poinsettias, and the like to the register.) In the end, Abe dubbed her the “creative gift giver”. And, on Christmas morning, when she received the cactus plants she’d been hoping for, he added to that: “. . . and the creative gift getter”.