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Quiet Joy

The first Christmas we got to spend in our house in Milwaukee was crazy.  I had just given birth to my first baby a few weeks before and didn’t feel up to travel, so the whole family came to us.  My parents, brothers and in-laws, all my uncles, aunts, and cousins, all came to our home to meet Aden and celebrate the holidays and have a party for my brothers who were born between Christmas and New Year’s.  Our house couldn’t quite hold everyone and when we lined up all the available tables to seat people for dinner we couldn’t open the front door.  It was hectic but it was great.  My Christmases as a child were big fun gatherings, too, and I was happy that the holiday event had come to Milwaukee.

But as the generation of cousins I grew up with began splitting obligations with new families, and people moved farther and farther away, things have become quieter and quieter.   I’m no longer the relative with the smallest children to complicate travel.  And Ian is home now.  When he was in Iraq there was a distinct need to have additional people here on big holidays to help fill the void.  This year was set to be the quietest yet, but I didn’t realize how quiet.

The plan was for just my parents to drive out on Christmas Eve so we could enjoy the actual day together, and my aunt and uncle from Ohio would come out for a few days afterward.  The irony is that when we were hosting the masses we lived in a house about half the size of the one we inhabit now.  We finally have proper space to fit everyone at the dining table without causing a fire exit hazard, and now there isn’t even a need for the leaf in the table.  It’s strange how that happened.

Unfortunately, even that meager plan has been pruned down further at the last moment.  My father isn’t well and my mother called this morning to tell me he was in too much pain to make the drive.  I feel so helpless, and so does my mom.  They’ve run every test they can run and can’t find the cause of the problem, so now he just has to wait and rest and take Tylenol until he can get in to see a specialist next week.  Some days are better than others, and today proved to be one of the bad ones.  Part of me feels we should go there, but it’s a long drive and a family with three kids is not conducive to the rest my dad needs so there isn’t much point.  So I will stay here and worry and we will have Christmas morning with just my little family alone.

In some ways this makes me sad, because obviously I’d like to see more of the people I love, but my little family is wonderful.  I have such an embarrassment of riches to be thankful for–my three sweet and healthy kids, my husband home safe and sound, a house I enjoy waking up in every day, food on the table, a job I love…. There is nothing I lack and I am profoundly aware of how fortunate I am.  I’m concerned for my parents and wish I could help, but to feel sorry for ourselves is ridiculous.  It’s not the Christmas I was picturing, but there is nothing wrong with what we have.

What we have is different from what we’re accustomed to, but it’s peaceful and nice.  Ian and I took turns going out to the violin store to finish some work there while the kids stayed home and played.  They pretended to sled in the living room for a long time, which is one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen.

Aden and I made stollen to put out for Santa.

Mona accidentally broke a wand that Aden had just gotten from the tooth fairy, so the two of us stopped at Target on the way back from the grocery store (neither of which, we discovered too late, was a good place to go on Christmas Eve) and Mona used her own money to not only buy Aden a new wand, but one for her brother as well.  We had Chinese take out in place of the meal my mom had planned to make.  We cuddled up for movie night.  We put out carrots for the reindeer.

And do you know why I’m writing this blog post?  Because I’m waiting for my children to pass out soundly enough that it will be safe to go downstairs and help myself to a piece of stollen and a carrot or two, and then stuff everyone’s stockings.  They are so excited!  Quinn is almost asleep at my feet, and I can hear Aden and Mona tossing and turning down the hall.  This is the first year we’ve had a real mantel to hang stockings from, and we didn’t need to rearrange the world to make room for a tree in our new living room so it’s been a pleasure to have it up without it being in the way for a change.  The new house is fun to decorate, so we have a ton of lights up this year.  It’s beautiful and fun and I can’t wait to see the kids’ faces in the morning when they finally get to open their presents.  Quinn told me several times today in what order he plans to open them.  The one in the candy cane paper is first, then the one in the reindeer paper, then red one, then the one with the snowflakes on it….

It’s hard finding presents for the kids so soon after their birthdays, but I think I found them some things they will enjoy.  I heard people ask each of my kids this week what they want for Christmas and they all said they just want to be surprised and they will like whatever they get.  How can you not want to give presents to people like that?

So we are having a quiet, private little Christmas.  It’s a different kind of joy.  And it is miraculous.  Whatever any of you are doing today, I wish you peace and all the love your heart can hold.  Happy Everything.

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