I did it. I survived my first Abundis/Thompson Christmas. And you know what? I loved it! It was impossible to not be swept up in the excitement and festivities, and I learned that the enjoyment felt by adults at Christmastime comes from the pleasure they see in the kids. Well, I knew this before, but I guess you can say I rediscovered the idea.
Thanks to President Obama, I only worked until about 1100 on Christmas Eve, leaving me plenty of time to get home and make sure everything was ready for the evening. I came home to a full house, as Paul had the day off and spent it collecting all four kids (and doing laundry, woohoo!). It's amazing how just one more kid throws everything into chaos again...just when I thought I was getting used to the routine.
Okay, I'm going to stop writing the play by play (I'm bored with it) and just get to the best part of the weekend--the part that made my heart melt into my shoes and put tears in my eyes. Don't make fun.
Thursday night, after the steak dinner extravaganza, after gifts and ice cream at Doug and Kathy's new house, after much overuse of the 'Santa won't visit if you don't knock it off' bit, after everyone was finally in their pajamas and each little tooth was brushed, we--Paul, Lilli, Lauren, Chloe, Nicholas and I, crammed ourselves onto the two couches to listen to Paul read "The Night Before Christmas."
The little kids snuggled in close, Chloe leaning against my side and Nicholas sitting in Paul's lap; the older girls put down their cell phones and mp3 players and for maybe the first time that day, each one was silent as Paul began the poem. As I listened to his voice recite the familiar words, I let my mind wander just a little bit.
I remembered the magic that I felt as a little girl on Christmas morning--the thrill that raced up my spine at the sight of bulging stockings hanging where flat, empty ones had dangled the night before, and my excitement to see our tree bursting with colorful packages for the whole family. I wanted the kids to feel that same excitement. But more than that, I wanted them to know that Christmas was about much more than what you get. It's about what you give, and what's been given to you. I know Lauren gets it, but maybe the little ones are too young yet.
I remembered listening to my dad's voice on Christmas morning as he read the Christmas Story. Sometimes he read from our illustrated kiddie Bible, and sometimes he would piece together the story from the Gospels out of the big black family Bible. But always the same story, always the familiar words. As I remembered these things I knew that I wanted to introduce this tradition to Paul's kids. Maybe it would help to impress the true meaning of Christmas on them. But I was shy. I didn't know how to ask Paul to read the Christmas Story. Was that weird? I didn't yet know how Christmas with his family worked.
Paul closed the poem with, "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!" and began to ask the kids questions about Santa, the chimney and the reindeer, making sure they understood what the poem was about. We teased them about the size of our chimney and told them Santa kept his magic in his nose and used his finger to blow some out when he needed it. The kids giggled and asked questions and we made up silly answers.
As they talked, Paul continued to flip through the book of Christmas tales. Suddenly he stopped and said,"I'm going to read the Christmas Story. My kids have never heard it." And he began to read the adapted story of Jesus' birth, the angels, the shepards and the wise men. I watched each of the kids, hoping they were understanding the story, hoping they were absorbing the meaning. And I listened to Paul reading the words that I had heard from my dad so many times. And I couldn't keep my eyes from filling up.
Families come in so many different combinations, and this was mine, sitting together in our little home, celebrating our first Christmas. We were simply together, and somehow Paul knew, without knowing, exactly what was important to me, exactly what I needed to hear.
I don't know if the kids will remember that story of baby Jesus. I don't doubt that the importance of a baby is not nearly as big as the importance of Santa to a little mind. I can only hope that as they grow older, they'll understand that Christmas is not about getting, getting, getting. I can only hope the seed of a memory was planted.
That moment was my Christmas. Don't get me wrong--the whole weekend was wonderful and chaotic and full of family and food and giving. But it was that one quiet moment on Christmas Eve that I will always remember as our first Christmas together.