When I say that the last week was a whirlwind, I know I'm not special. It just strikes me especially since I made a concerted effort to simplify this year. And while we did slow down, time didn't get the message and seemed to move even faster as if that is even possible. We had little to do Christmas Eve day but were still scrambling to take a much needed walk, pick up a last minute gift and get our cupcakes iced. My little elves volunteered for the task when they heard me grumbling in the kitchen, and they did a fantastic job. It reminded me that it's OK to ask for help, to ease up a bit on the reins and to not allow perfect to ruin good.
We were in our usual pew by 3:35 for 4:30 mass so the last minute scrambling seemed to be in vain until the choral concert started and peace came over me like a warm blanket. I closed my eyes and soaked it in so grateful not to be hurrying in late to SRO after jockeying for a parking spot. It was a gift to be able to sit in solemnity. I vowed that we will always be early for this my favorite mass of the year.
After a spirited rendition of Hark the Herald Angels Sing, we traveled along Lake Drive admiring the beautiful light snow and all the twinkling lights. We passed a couple UPS trucks still making last minute deliveries, and it struck me as rather ridiculous. I made a mental note to finish my holiday shopping early in December lest the focus be more on the gifts than the birth.
We arrived at my brother and SIL's to quite the LL Bean scene: roaring fire, windows all trimmed in wreaths, candles lit, and champagne or kiddie cocktails served. We broke from our traditional tenderloin and potatoes meal, and instead enjoyed a menu that represented favorites from all of our Christmases past. It was a trip down memory lane and also decadently delicious. Sometimes change is good. Time honored traditions are the glue that holds the family together, but adapting them is what keeps the family moving forward.
Of course, the kids were eager to open gifts. And my brother who is the biggest kid of all was anxious for them to dig into their piles. Wow! Just wow. We are all blessed beyond measure. So much thoughtful generosity. Too much. I will continue to strive for less even as I concede it is not a popular premise.
Before the end of the night, T. Bone was snoozing on one couch in the sun room and his Grandpa on another. Miss Bit was starting to doze off in a chair beside the fire. It was 2:00 even if it felt like it couldn't possibly be a minute after midnight. It was time to pack up so we could be snug in our beds before Santa's arrival. I don't like when good things come to an end. Christmas Eve is my favorite night of the year so of course I would prefer it last forever. Yet I know the spirit of kindness, togetherness and goodwill that is Christmas can last as long as we bear it.
We came home to pour egg nog and handpick cookies for Santa, and chop an apple or two for the reindeer crew. Then coach and I sat beside the tree for a few quiet moments and took a few deep breaths...to inhale more joy and exhale a bit of sorrow. They are so closely woven together for me even on this beautiful night.
I set my alarm and felt a a slight tug at my heartstrings. Gone are the days when the kids wake us at 6:00 a.m. too excited to sleep another single wink. Pang Now we wake them, have time to brew coffee and retrieve the camera before they roll out of bed. Santa didn't bring T. Bone his Jack Lalane juicer, but he seemed quite pleased with the things he did get. He was especially happy with his new guitar. Miss Bit was beside herself over her bow and arrow, and we quickly had to do an etiquette lesson on who and where it is appropriate to aim. The cats have more fun with the boxes and bows than is legal. They think every gift is for them. They are really just our little furry children. These quiet family moments are the most important to me and I need to carve out more of them in the midst of the hustle.
We barely had time to bake off the cinnamon buns I mixed, kneaded and rolled the day before. The visions of a leisurely family breakfast quickly had to be dashed because we were running late for our next celebration. I am learning that there are often times when something in life has gotta give...on Christmas morning it was this new tradition. Next year, I'll make it work I tell myself.
We spent Christmas afternoon and eve at my in laws where the whole family gathered. There were more gifts. I hit the favorite things trifecta: a kitchen gadget, a neck bauble and a book. We enjoyed more good food and games too. We introduced the family to Wizard, and just as we suspected, it was a big hit. The best gifts are those that encourage more togetherness, and we all received plenty of those this Christmas.
So while I'm glad it's over...it was a good one, I'm thankful for the bright spots and memories, and now I'm gearing up for 2014.