I had high hopes of cultivating some new Houston Christmas traditions but alas I was too weary. We attended Andrew's school production of A Christmas Carol, which was truly extraordinarily well done. I wish I had invited other people because it was probably the best live action rendering I have ever seen. We sat on rolled up mats in the wrestling room and watched through the open-air windows, since the seating there was superior to our folded chairs on the deck. Claire repeatedly requested "nursers!", Will and Porter demonstrated their incapacity to sit still for any length of time, and Andrew sat with his classmates in the choir probably not singing and it was perfect. The night was beautiful and balmy, the play of perfect length (under an hour), capped off with cookies and chocolate milk under the huge great oak, dripping with oversized glowing lights, while kids ran wild in the dark adjoining field. I loved it.
We took the boys to Toys R Us one night to buy gifts for each other. Porter couldn't stop shopping for himself. I can slightly understand, though, since he is the easiest one to shop for. I couldn't stop shopping for him myself, and ended up having to give one of his presents to Will to even things out when wrapping time came.
The sister missionaries came for Christmas Eve dinner, which brought a lot of cheer, particularly to the boys who went wild with the attention of it all. Brigham and I spent all day cooking up a feast of mashed potatoes (still in the fridge), fresh french bread, ham, tenderloin and green bean casserole.
After the sisters left, we read Luke 2, opened one present each, pulled out the Christmas pajamas we bought 2 Christmases ago (that would be 2012) and sent the boys to bed. Then Brigham and I enjoyed my favorite of our traditions: wrapping all the presents together while watching Its A Wonderful Life. I kept thinking how we watched this movie in our townhouse when we just had two little tiny boys, and in the basement of our home in McLean. How happy and especially in love with this man who has given me my own wonderful life--a life that seems to keep increasing in happiness so much that I feel nervous that something is about to befall and rupture this delicate bubble of joy--I feel every time we set to wrapping under the glow of this old movie.
Christmas morning was sweet. Everyone had one big gift (a lego set for Andrew, a scooter for Will, a Playmobil Dragon Castle set for Porter and a kitchen for Claire (and Porter). I bought a bunch of book collections at costco, including the Little House series. I am usually so cheap about stupid stuff and I am glad I got over that to invest in some wonderful children's literature. We read the Christmas chapter out of Little House on the Prarie and I almost cried. I want to read a Christmas chapter from her or something similar every year from now on.
We got to Skype with Katie on her mission in Ireland, which was a lot of fun. Brigham has a wonderful family and it brought back a lot of memories from being a missionary in Chile to see her.
Later that night we had Christmas dinner with the Hickman family, our home away from home. The kids had a wonderful time playing in their playroom, eating their delicious dinner and getting showered with the attention of the Hickman kids, whom even Claire allowed to hold and cuddle her. The elders were there, which was a lot of fun. We played a game at the end of the evening and I felt such a happiness looking over and seeing Porter stretched contentedly across the laps of two of the Hickman kids while Andrew and Will raucously and somewhat cluelessly participated in the game. After one of the elders played a beautiful rendition of a Christmas medley on the piano, I felt our Christmas festivities, though they may not have been all I had hoped to accomplish, were plenty and sufficient. I am so grateful to families who can open their homes to us when we don't have family here.
I had wanted to inculcate some volunteerism, some hand-made-gifting, some special service into our season but at the end of the day all I managed was loading Will down with Toys for Tots, one hand-made ornament each and a lot of baking and delivering of cookies and bread on Christmas Eve morning (the kids were actually thrilled with this one, at least). Our cousins had the great idea of the kids hand-making presents for each other and I'd like to attempt that next year. We squeaked out a Christmas card that probably didn't arrive until after Christmas to 49 people (I wouldn't let Brigham order more bc last year's cards are in my dresser still.)
I was unsatisfied with our photographic recording of our season so today, when we took down the tree, I forced everyone to pose for me. Our undecorating efforts will photographically substitute for our decorating ones. It is great to just let things be good enough.
I have been feeling even more on edge with my over the top unabating nostalgia lately because we are in such a sweet spot with our kids. Andrew, at 9, is still a little boy, but only just barely. I think 10 is really wading out into some tween waters. He is a great kid and as he has gotten older he has shown such wonderful new sides to himself. Last night he gave a family prayer that had both Brigham and I blinking back tears. I just am not ready for him to grow up. Even looking at photos taken just one year ago I can see the changes in their faces and it breaks my heart. Sometimes it feel just too clear and true that life really is like a vapor that is here in the morning and then disappears. I feel these years slipping by before I can fully get my bearings and I feel overwhelmed by it all and that's when I just start watching tv to ignore it a bit and return to it later when I am ready to face it. In some ways, one of the best parts for me in having another baby is the sense of renewal it brings to me, to my vision of our family. We aren't done--there is another little guy coming along who hasn't had any Christmases or traditions or birthdays, yet. We are still at the beginning of something.
I suppose that is what Christmas, in its own way, might be about, too. The renewal of life. This mystical, magical promise of things and people never ending, of ultimate restoration. These days, these people we love and lose, all of these forgotten moments will all be restored to us and we will all be made whole together, in the end. So these special years I am treasuring and yet insufficiently appreciating, these years I know I would one day give anything to relive any mundane moment, are not really evaporating when they are done. Somehow they will come back to me. Maybe that is part of what eternity means.
So that was Christmas!