It seems Christmas season rushes past faster and faster every year. I tried to stay awake to the moments this year (not easy with chronic pain and fatigue) to take a snapshot (literal or mental), to jot down something the girls said, to remember how that mug of peppermint hot chocolate tasted and how the sound of the music and the glow of the lights came together to make the magic I look forward to every year.
Now that it is over, the lights and ornaments packed away in their Rubbermaid bins, the naked tree discarded behind the house, the cupboard absent of the mugs sporting snowmen, doves, holly berries.... Now that it is over, I want to look back and remember some of our Christmas moments.
There was the annual Sunday morning that begins with pumpkin pancakes and coffee and the buzz of beginning-of-the-season excitement. We went to the tree farm and made small talk with the owners and chased little girls through tree acreage and snapped pictures. I kept reminding us all to "think small" because we have a little house, practically a cottage, and every year we end up with a tree that is far too big and Jonathan has to trim it significantly to get it to fit. The Think Small mantra worked and when we got our tree home it was the perfect size for our cottage... not too big, not too small, but just right.
There was the shopping trip where we found the perfect matching Christmas jammies for 5 and 7 year old sisters. There was that moment in the girls' clothing section of Target when I closed my eyes and breathed gratitude for my family and for Christmas and the meaning behind it, and felt the anticipation of the coming weeks and all the precious moments we would share and the memories those moments would make.
There was the afternoon that my older daughter and I went to see a local production of The Nutcracker and I sat in a flip-down red auditorium seat and ignored the pain as best I could and observed the art of ballet and the wonder in my daughter's eyes.
There was the moment, later that night, that we created a new tradition -- the First Annual Sisters' Christmas Tree Slumber Party, where we set up sleeping bags on couch cushions as near to the glowing Christmas Tree as possible, and we put on our pajamas and got cozy and watched Christmas movies and drank peppermint hot cocoa and giggled until hours past bedtime, and then I tucked them in and stayed quiet at the other end of our little cottage while they fell asleep to Josh Groban's singing and the smell of noble fir.
There was the moment before Christmas Vespers, where I curled ringlets into blonde hair and the moments later that night where Hannah and five other little girls represented angels in a live nativity.
There was the moment when we left Christmas vespers and I said, "I have a fever," and I got home and I did, and I could barely limp down the little hall to my bed that night. But those aren't the moments I want to remember, they are just the moments I want to rise above. However, if someone with a chronic condition has any tips for how to make a magical, memorable Christmas for kids without going into a flare, I'm all ears.
There was Christmas church wearing red and black all together and standing in the front of the church with my parents and my daughter and singing "Go Tell it on the Mountain" with a big smile on my face.
There was time with my parents and my sister and good food and moments all hovered around the island laden with Mom's traditional goodies like fudge and English toffee, while we snacked like happy vultures and joked.
There were many Christmas movies and many Christmas CDs and the Gingerbread house and the cookie baking.
There were many resting moments where we pair a heating pad and recliner with snuggling time.
There was the moment we captured when Natalie helped Daddy prepare Christmas dinner yams.
There was Christmas day when the four of us gathered around a candle lit dinner, and I snuck a bite of yams off Natalie's plate (because they were yummy and I wanted to see if she'd notice), and she non-nonchalantly leaned over and very quietly and sweetly whispered, "Can't you use your manners?" and twelve days later, randomly on a Friday afternoon, she again asked, "Mom, next year when we are eating Christmas dinner, do you think you could remember your table manners and not snitch food off my plate?"
There was the ear-piercing scream when Hannah unwrapped the Veggie Tales DVD she wanted, and the smile that could split a face when Natalie pulled a bunny Pillow Pet from a package.
Presents are fun, but for me this year, the best gifts were the moments that became memories.