We greeted Christmas by trudging through the icy medical clinic parking lot under a black sky, the gloved hands of two feverish kids holding our own. Dual breathing treatments, Nebulizers, three coloring pages and a mystery Dum-Dum (outcome: root beer). It was anything but magical, but there was a moment spent pacing the carpet tiles with Scout on my hip where I looked away from Family Feud on the lobby TV just long enough to see Ken and Bee both cross-legged on the loveseat, side by side, coloring a snowman on their intake forms. Whitman surfaced in my head: We were together. I forget the rest.
Ken and I have, time and again, botched Christmas in one way or another. There was the year of the rear-ending in a snow storm, the year of the luggage lost, the year I food poisoned the both of us with a failed attempt at coq au vin. This year, then, was the year of the flu, of which we still haven’t yet fully gathered our bearings.
For over a week, we’ve been swapping shifts sleeping upright in the rocking chair, taking steam showers and saunas, stroking backs and wiping noses, checking oxygen levels and cancelling plans. On Christmas Day, both kids fell asleep from one present to the next before we decided to leave the gifts to another day, our own small stack still unwrapped and untouched under a twinkling tree.
We were together. I forget the rest.
Only I don’t want to forget the rest. I want to remember this and all of it – a White Christmas marathon on the sofa watering small mouths from a syringe. Homemade juice, chicken soup from the sick tray. Calming fevers, adjusting socks, re-adjusting socks.
I’m convinced the whole lot of it was what I needed this year, though certainly not what I wanted. I’m convinced I needed to be reminded of how little we control, of how little the calendar matters, of how the best-laid plans go awry. Of how we plan and dream and wait expectantly for Advent, for Christmas, and it arrives in a bit of a banged-up fashion.
Of how we anticipate a king and we’re granted a baby.
2017, for me, held a lot of anticipation. There was the book launch and the many expectations surrounding it – best-seller lists and media interviews and fifteen minutes of fame. Filled to the brim, and as fun as it was, as proud of the book as I was, I found myself squinting in the spotlight, shielding my eyes, shrinking back toward something quieter.
This was how my year began, and this is how my year will end: with a gentle reminder that when the twinkling lights – on the tree, on our lives – fade, there is something quiet to work toward. It doesn’t often look like general merriment, like gilded paper or eucalyptus wreaths or hot cocoa.
Sometimes, the only snowman to build is the one in the margin of the ER chart.
And yet: here we are, here we sit. Another day to look for something different, something real, something true. And here it arrives – of manger and mess – reminding us that the greatest throne wasn’t really a throne at all.
If your holiday, or your year for that matter, wasn’t what you thought it would be, my prayer is that your joy not remain swaddled for long. We are together. We mustn’t forget the rest.
Happy 2018, sweet friends.
p.s. Your favorite posts from this year:
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