The hustle, the bustle. I can accurately claim neither, having just emerged from a fireside nap on the hard floor. In our home, we keep a tradition of letting the kids open a shared gift on a day where it feels like Christmas, be it November, December or beyond. This year, the day fell upon an otherwise Thursday when Ken asked if I’d made any plans for the day.
None! I smile.
Fire? he asks.
An hour later, there is the crackling of amber, the unwrapping of this book. Scout was carted off for a nap shortly after, and while Bee and I made plans to dig into Anne of Green Gables, neither of us could resist the sleepy pull of the fire. We slept long on a pile of sunroom cushions, blankets littered with pine needles, sap, soot. Awoke hungry, roasted hot dogs over the fire.
(Later, the silent night would turn decidedly less so, but for now, all was calm.)
This is the year I am learning to pace myself. Learning that the gifts will be wrapped when they must. That four holiday cards are better than none. That there was nothing sprinty about a 90 mile trek to Bethlehem; that there needn’t be here.
Thus: our first real live tree experience was as you’d expect it to be – lovely and maddening, cheeks pinked and tempers red. We’d made the trek at dark, chosen a wide Frasier fir after aggressive indecision from the 6-year-old; she who wanted a voice in the matter, but couldn’t land on an octave.
There was a hot cocoa detour. A trip to the hardware store for a tree stand, the famed chorus of complaints and “Can we?”s ringing through every aisle. Checkout line fidgets under bright garish lights. Two hours later, sugar pulsing through the veins of pint-sized children, the tree was ready for lights and we, the parents, were ready for light’s out.
So we paused. Recalibrated. Left the decorating for a new day, with new energy (and detoxified systems) to greet us. It was far lovelier this way, inching out the miles a bit. Light stringing one day, salt dough ornaments the next. Just yesterday, Bee and I finally managed to eek out a cranberry garland, our fingertips stained red by pride and purpose.
It’s a reminder I need every year: that holidays with small children are swirly as snow globes, happily shattering our own delicate expectations for a real wonderland.
All else is all else: cold walks, woolen feet, thumb-printing the cream cheese cookies for a Maraschino cherry. This afternoon, the kids are decorating their grandmother’s lawn mower for a Christmas caroling tour throughout the neighborhood.
Happy haul-idays, they’ll sing tomorrow to all.
Happy holidays, I write today to you.
p.s. See you in 2019, friends. It is such a joy to greet you here, and such a joy to tell you so. From the bottom of my heart, from the bottom of another year, thank you, thank you, thank you.