Last year, Christmas wasn't my favorite. I was distraught, angry, overwhelmed with grief, and overcome by mountains of "stuff". Christmas day marked 37 weeks we had been without Harlynn, who lost her life at 37 weeks. There were a lot of tears. I holed myself up with my husband and my daughter, and the three of us made our own memories, with our own schedule, and our own agenda. That in itself was wonderful, but it wasn't the kind of Christmas I typically would have looked forward to. Afterward, I shared some pointed thoughts on Christmases of the future, and got some pointed feedback in return. I was glad to close the books on last Christmas. I didn't care to repeat any of last year. Christmas, or otherwise.
This year was different. Dare I say, this year was wonderful.
My in-laws, God bless them, sent some amazingly creative gifts. When we put pizza boxes under our tree, we were wondering what on earth could be inside, and why pizza boxes? Brent's family opens gifts on Christmas Eve, and since we couldn't be with them this year, we did the next best thing by opening their presents Christmas Eve. The pizza boxes contained dough. Money dough. I had a moneyroni pizza. It was awesome, and adorable, and we got a good chuckle out of it. Little Miss and Little Man were given the perfect toys, and Brent and I were each given very thoughtful, meaningful gifts. (Thank you, G & P!) It was a great way to kick off the Christmas holiday.
After gift-opening, we went to Christmas Eve service with my parents. It was a wonderful service, as usual, and I love our church family. Love, love, love. I thank God every week and then some for leading us to these people and this community. When church was over, my sister, her husband, and their boys had arrived and met us back at our house. I had cooked a turkey dinner with all the fixings and we had a wonderful time together. Papa got to read The Night Before Christmas to all the grandkids. It's one of my favorite traditions. My Grandpa Fox read it to us, from that very book my dad is holding, whenever he was at our house for Christmas.
That night, I wrote my letter to Harlynn to place in her stocking. The tears stung my eyes as I wrote, but the pen wasn't as heavy as last year. The words came a little easier. The tone carried a little more hope. I love my little girl so much, and I'm so thankful to have found a way to include her every Christmas. Her stocking may hold only paper notes, but it also carries the full-on weight of a mother's love.
Christmas morning, I was the first one up. I started making cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Our gift to my family this year was my cooking. With the job situation and our financial calamity, it was the most thoughtful, practical gift we could come up with. They were pretty surprised when I had gifts for them to open Christmas morning, but I didn't stray from my word of my gift being my cooking. Mom & Dad got an Italian themed kit. Spaghetti noodles (Dakota Wheat, of course), tomato sauce, Parmesan cheese - and homemade Italian seasoning. Sis & Bro got a Mexican themed kit. Taco shells, refried beans, salsa - and homemade taco seasoning.
Before gift opening, though, we did our second reading tradition. Brent read Luke chapter two, the story of Christ's birth. My favorite verse from all of that is verse 19. Any mother, I think, notices that verse in the Christmas story. I ponder so many things, and I can only imagine how her heart was filled, watching her infant son being worshiped and praised, knowing he would one day, somehow, save mankind.
We got some of the coolest, most thoughtful, meaningful, loving gifts this year. Truly. It was wonderful. This morning, Brent and I enjoyed free Starbucks courtesy of my aunt and uncle. I wore a purple scarf all day today (and yesterday), courtesy of another aunt. Dad made - M A D E - everyone gorgeous candles. And on, and on, and on I could go.
We laughed (hard), and joked and made new memories with new inside jokes. I cooked more in two days than I've cooked probably this entire year. The kiddos had a blast playing with one another. And though it was a lot of work to cook and host and keep Little Man out of the fallen pine needles from the tree, it was a little sad to have it all come to an end.
Today, our company left. We took down the tree and put away the Christmas decorations. We organized our holiday storage, and made room for a fresh start to a new year. I did a little shopping, a little work, and a lot of cleaning.
Tomorrow, we'll go to church. We'll come home and prepare for the week ahead. We'll enjoy having Daddy home an extra day this coming week. And we'll look back on 2014 with a sigh and a smile.
It was a good Christmas. It was a good holiday. And it was a better year than last. Thank you, to all of you, who held us tenderly this year as we went along. Thank you for loving us, for listening to us, and for standing by us even when we (mostly, me) didn't make a shred of sense to you. Thank you for making this year gentler on our mending hearts.
And thank you for the lattes.