Just after opening presents this Christmas, I overheard my three year old niece, dressed in her brand new Snow White costume, calling to my three year old son, adorned in his fresh from the box Buzz Lightyear wings, "Buzz Lightyur, Buzz Lightyur! Come save Snow White fwom the dwagon. He's twying to get me!"Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. As a kid, I loved this time of year because it meant Mom had some time off work, my sister and I were out of school, and Santa was coming to town. For much of my life, Mom was a single, working parent, and I honestly do not know how she managed to pull it all off. We ran around at the last minute shopping for presents, frantically putting up the tree, stringing popcorn, scurrying to get out our Christmas decorations, and pulling late nighters to get ribbons on all the packages (mom insists on beautiful handmade ribbons to this day, and I will be passing that on to my own children). Christmas morning arrived year after year with Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers singing "I Believe in Santa Claus" in the background. It has always been our quintessential song for getting the good cheer and Christmas spirit flowing. Most of the time it was just the three of us, but in our earlier years, we might share Christmas with a grandparent or two and my dad. Still, Christmas was a small, intimate family gathering in my own house that was over in the blink of an eye, and for sure, everyone was guaranteed a bed for sleeping.
Then I became a wife and a mom, and Christmas, among other things, had to evolve. As I learned when I married my husband, beds are not a guarantee or a necessity for any family gathering, especially Christmas. While I grew up living with mom and sis, my husband is tied to a very close-knit, big extended family, none of whom mind sleeping on top of each other, literally. Personal space is not a priority. This is a very difficult reality for someone like me who can't even pee if others are within earshot. Christmas is a prime example of our struggle over the years to find a compromise for our two family extremes. Actually, saying we struggled doesn't come close to describing the all out blow ups that ensued trying to make our Christmas celebrations fair for all families, keeping in mind that I come from a very complicated, divorced family. We started out alternating holidays with us traveling to one house or another other every other year. Then we had kids, and we learned very quickly that the most thought out plans get shoved aside, quite frequently. Christmas holidays bring out the unexpected bad weather, illnesses, family deaths, car trouble, and this year the never-ending bed rest. There is no such thing as a fair way to alternate families and Christmases.
Bed rest and Christmas. Those two things coinciding, as they did this year for us, opened a whole new can of potential Christmas chaos. Traveling was out of the question. I was lucky to even make it downstairs Christmas morning. What to do? Well, I'll tell you what we did. We embraced Christmas chaos. Before I knew it my house was covered from wall to wall in parents, in-laws, sisters, little cousins, a puppy, presents, presents, and presents, luggage, sleeping bags, air mattresses, blankets, holiday goodies, food, food, and more food. The only thing we didn't have in abundance was space.
And then, Christmas morning arrived with the all familiar "I Believe in Santa Claus" music jamming in the background. The house was rockin'. The smells of the tree, fresh coffee, and sausage balls filled the air. Who knew reindeer poop on our roof and visible to all could be so intriguing (thanks to my husband's disgusting sense of humor)? Presents took over the living room. The kids came downstairs to see what Santa had left behind, eyes sparkling and wide, their little bodies just vibrating with excitement. The grown-ups just sat and encircled the kids, watching as the morning unfolded (that's really all we could do because there was no room for movement unless we wanted to risk serious injury).
This was true Christmas chaos, much different from the small, intimate Christmas mornings I grew up knowing. In the middle of chaos, there I was in the coziness of my den, surrounded by family I love so much, buried in multiple conversations full of laughter, the Christmas lights reflecting the pure joy of Christmas in the eyes of my children and their cousins. The joy was unavoidably contagious and pure. My house was overflowing with the warmth of love, peace, and the sweet spirits of beloved family members who have gone before us, reminding me that "Every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17)." I truly cherish the Christmas chaos I experienced this year. What a good and perfect gift!