Christmas lights and sounds and crowds make me weary. My breath comes slowly and I feel hot and sticky in the holiday shops and endless lines. I prefer to watch it all from the fringes, appearing for a bit and retreating quickly to solitude.
The holidays are busy: a drive to my parents, peppered with conversation, a stop @ Cracker Barrel where Baby Girl laughed so hard root beer spewed across the table, and jazz on the radio. Pops and brother played guitar; Nana walked to and from the kitchen; Baby Girl and Teen Niece straightened hair; husband and Little Nephew conversed intently about Star Wars. I watched, half immersed in a book, enjoying the familiar.
Christmas Eve @ husband's family: the winding country roads and the smell of lavender to keep the motion sickness @ bay. Food and people. Baby Nephew excited in all that is wrapped and waiting to be opened. Baby Girl new here, still--like her mother--stays close throughout the day, venturing to play only as night is falling. There are dogs; one so massive and alive, he is better suited to the pages of Narnia, but gentle. His head as big as mine nudges my hand for attention, his heft against my legs.
On the way home, we pull over and watch deer for a moment...a sight still thrilling for those of us in this new country.
As Christmas sneaks in, Baby Girl is fast asleep, husband wraps the last of the gifts, and I lie watching him. I search my essential oils guide for cramps find two that came free with the starter kit. "That's how to get husbands to buy in. Treat PMS." Husband laughs when he says it.
Christmas morning there are gifts, cinnamon rolls, a 100 piece puzzle. Baby Girl asked us if we said Happy Birthday to Jesus. She facetimes with Pops. It is our first Christmas day apart-bittersweet because we miss them, but know they're happy for our family.
The day lazes on; there are books, leftovers (jambalaya from husband's uncle, Nana's BBQ), naps, the documentary concert of One Direction.
It is a quiet Christmas. Unremarkable by most standards. I wonder if I'm failing with no tree, no decorations, no traditions.
Baby Girl wears a trail telling me that the One Direction calendar has all the birthdays marked (Harry's is February 1). She raves over the cinnamon rolls and jambalaya. Pouts when her wallet can't be found. She shows off her new shoes and headbands, downloads songs to her IPod. She is quick witted, sometimes sharp-tongued, curious, confident turning flips or doing turns on stage, yet so shy we couldn't sing Happy Birthday to her until she was four. It is her heart I see today; her letting Baby Nephew help tear open her last gift, her teacher commenting how she was one of only three girls that refused to get involved in a tween girls' dispute, and today counting out dollars and coins that she had saved for almost a year to fund drinking water for someone else.
Husband took photos, modeled his new shoes, and a belt too big. He took a nap, made the absolute best sandwiches, and silently matched Baby Girl's donation dollar for dollar, never telling her. It has been a year since we married. He is more confident, able to stand up for himself better, and laughs more. He quadruple wrapped some of Baby Girl's gifts after he caught her peeking through the paper. She laughed at being foiled; he pleased that he could foil her.
And I with my little family. Laughed at the pictures taken, tackled pieces of the puzzle, read a book as husband napped, enjoyed chips and salsa. In this, my first year of marriage, I find I have to defend less, enjoy more, and am happy to have someone to depend on.
I think of the Wise Men. Their flaws? Did one want to lead, but was forced to follow? Did one begrudge bringing the gift of gold to a child? The shepherd? Did he doubt? Was he irritable? A loner? And Mary. Sweet, sweet Nana reminds me how hard that donkey ride must have been for her. Who could have blamed Joseph had he left? We know so little of this man, but I marvel at what he must have been, for God entrusted him with the earthly raising of His Son. The cast of characters that makes the first Christmas was not dressed in finest linens, did not hold the highest office of the day, did not attend parties in the fanciest of places. They were integral to the Story because they were searching for the KING.
So today, we are celebrating Jesus birth. It was low-key, a little unconventional, surrounded by the people who are closest. And so was our Christmas, our flawed cast of three, enjoying one another and following the KING.