If I could sum up Christmas 2020 in three words it would be gratitude, joy, and family…. OK, and food. We spent a lot of time in the kitchen! But being able to use those three words to describe our Christmas together is not something I take for granted after this incredibly hard year.
For being the first Christmas without Dad being physically present, I’m amazed how we were able to allow grief and joy to coexist. There were moments we held each other and cried because we miss him so much and there were moments we laughed when we talked about him and celebrated the life and family he and Mom created and built together. While I usually describe those emotions as a roller coaster, they felt more gentle than that this time; like a natural ebb and flow of ocean waves, rising high and making you stop to take a deep breath, then subsiding, leaving a gentle acceptance of what is.
I share that all as a reminder of what we all know; pictures shared online are often highlights of someone’s experiences. In a year when it’s hard to share joys because we all want to be respectful of the unique pain and grief we are all experiencing too, I want to encourage us all to keep sharing. We need the love and the light and the humanity to shine through and connect us, and so in that spirit, I want to share the joys from our Christmas with you, and if you feel so inclined to share yours with me, I’d absolutely love to hear them.
Ok, onto Christmas…
Mom arrived a few days before Christmas and I’m so glad she did, as I could not have done it all without her. We prepped food, baked cookies, ran errands, made a pit stop to see the Birkdale Bears (a tradition the girls love that we didn’t think we’d squeeze in), viewed the Star of Bethlehem that appeared on the 21st, picked up the rib roast from the butcher, and learned that the liquor store will run out of Bailey’s if you wait until the last minute to grab some.
On the 22nd, my brother, Kris, his wife, Cara, my two nieces, Kyla and Lacey, and their sweet old dog, Molly, arrived mid-afternoon and I teared up with relief that we were finally all together under one roof. The girls wasted no time running off with their cousins!
Once everyone was settled in, Kris took the lead with the martini making. Dad always made the martinis and he taught him well, as my brother makes a mean martini, which paired well with our traditional snacks- seasoned Oyster crackers, sausage, and my Grandma Betty’s long standing tradition of a giant wheel of Swiss cheese.
The days had a nice rhythm to them including as much outside time as possible to try and burn off the sugar rush we all had from the cookies. We played David’s KUBB game in the yard and a lot of Settlers of Catan in the house. The kids stayed up late, but honestly all slept together in the same room pretty darn well, now that the youngest of them is four years old. I meant to expand our kitchen table for us all, but got quite tickled at the idea of the girls’ having their own table by the fire. Time is a funny thing, as I loved looking over and seeing a “kids’ table” but somehow still feel like I belong at one myself.
Christmas Eve was rainy and cozy. We missed having a church service to attend, but filled the day with Christmas songs, games, snacking, movie watching, tracking Santa, and baking (we always have to make chocolate chip, as Santa told the girls years ago that those are his favorite and they have never forgotten it). That evening was super special, as the girls received and phone call from Santa from his sleigh and it delighted them all! Afterwards they put out the cookies, milk, and carrots and we got them into bed by about 10:00.
Hailey had decided they’d all stay in their room until 8:00 on Christmas morning to give the adults time to get coffee, but once all the adults were up, I went to go tell them they could come out early. Their excited shrieks of “HE CAME; HE CAME!” are sounds that will make me smile for all my years. There is nothing like children’s joy on Christmas morning.
After squealing and seeing all that Santa brought, we took a break for breakfast, then returned to the living room with a fresh cup of coffee for family presents. We open one at a time so the festivities stretched out throughout the morning as we undoubtedly went a little more overboard this year. The matching pajamas Mom got us all called for pictures in front of the tree of course. It was a happy morning!
For my own personal memory sake, I have to mention one of my personal highlights- Hailey’s heartfelt gifts. She started months ago making everyone a gift and had a personalized one for everybody.
She hand copied recipes from Oh She Glows to make my mom a personal vegan cookbook. Kaitlyn wants a pet so she made her a miniature pet, complete with a house, a bed, and a care manual. She made David homemade board games since they like to play together. And she had David help her make me a handmade wooden frame, which she painted, and selected the picture for. Yes, I cried. Her heart is her God-given gift and she never ceases to amaze me with how she shows her love.
The rest of the day unfolded with a lot of present playing, a couple adult naps on the couch (myself included), and a delicious dinner. David made standing rib roast and a homemade mac and cheese. We rounded it out with some marinated Portobello mushrooms, green beans, and the Stathas family’s famous Christmas potatoes, which consist largely of butter and salt. It was delicious.
I know this year has been challenging for us all and my hope is that whatever the holiday season looked like for you this year, that you found sparks of joy and magic, and hold onto those sweet memories. Much love to you as we head into a new year…