Merry Christmas Eve. Although not usually a great day for me, I woke up with the sun (and my baby that doesn’t sleep) and tried to get my heart in a good place. Today is the 17th anniversary of losing my mom to breast cancer and this day always seems to bring the gaping hole of loss into sharp focus. She was really good at Christmas Magic.
The other thing I can count on for this day is that my husband is at church for 9 hours (we have 5 Christmas Eve services) and I am home with my littles, trying to make magic and finish all the things I left until last minute. And not doing it very well.
This year my husband is sick in bed instead, so that’s fun. I am downstairs wrangling kids and fixing to make my mom’s extra special, better than anything cheesecake and trying to figure out how to watch Charlie Brown Christmas since our TV just stopped working yesterday.
And then I notice that the dog pooped on my new area rug because the grass is soaked with rain and because he’s a little jerk. As I’m cleaning it up, my middle one says she accidentally stepped in dog poop somewhere else and didn’t realize it until she climbed onto the couch and smeared it on the cushion. Just magic I tell ya.
My neighbor was saying the other day that she can’t wait for Christmas to be over and asked, “why does it make people crazy?” I’m not sure she wanted to hear my answer but I engaged it with her anyway. This season seems to just amplify everything- the good in our lives and the hard. We want special and magic and we either work hard to create it for those we love or we feel the empty that comes with not being able to do that. It brings all the crazy (and beautiful) to the surface. Even still, I don’t want it to be over.
If we believe in Christmas Magic it’s probably because we experienced it when we were young. But I am betting that all the things that felt magical to me weren’t always magical for my parents. I’m sure there were moments (like I’ve had) when they thought, “why did we spend so much time, money and effort on this experience only to have the kids cry and complain?” Christmas is a lot of work, but it’s good work and even 10 minutes of magic makes it worth the effort. Advent readings, baking cookies, decorating the house, hosting and going to parties. Shopping for special gifts, cleaning the house again and again, late nights and sometimes crabby kids. My mom was always up until after midnight on Christmas Eve locked in her bedroom wrapping and trying to remember all the secret places she stuffed things. It is a privilege to be the ones trying to create Christmas Magic for our kids and getting tastes of it ourselves.
We kicked off the season with a Thanksgiving trip to Sonoma to be with my side of the family. We planned to take family pictures at the beautiful winery that my brother works for- great idea right? Cute outfits, good camera, 13 people showered and ready and we get up there only to have my middle one in an emotional puddle because her tights itched. This is one of the gems that resulted.
By the time I had threatened and bribed and we finally moved on from individual family photos, our middle one got caught up with the beautiful place we stood and the special people she was near and forgot all about her itchy tights. She was all smiles. I stopped obsessing over getting a good Christmas card photo (we ended up going back the next day for more) and tried to stop forcing things. The kids were eating left-behind grapes, we stared out at the vines that display my brother’s hard work, the sun started setting and the beauty was overwhelming. I realized what a gift it is to be surrounded by my family that I love so fiercely. That’s some Christmas magic right there.
Christmas is full of itchy tights moments. Times when the things bugging us or hurting us become so heightened that it’s all we feel. Last year Christmas Eve was the worst. But Christmas Morning was the stuff of dreams. A peace fell over our house that I hadn’t felt in a long time. Every gift our kids opened came with “just what I hoped for” sentiments and grateful hearts. I think they are starting to get the real magic of Christmas, that our gifts to each other show our love and symbolize how Jesus loves us and gave himself as the ultimate gift. I was tired and 9 months pregnant and there were moving boxes all over the house, but for a little while I just sat and let all the good things be the loud things.
Every special experience we try to create will likely have amplified high and lows and we should probably just accept and lean into that. Otherwise we can get so distracted by the itches that we will miss the magic. Often times, the magic just creeps in and shows up in places that we didn’t plan on our calendar. Like last night during dinner we heard music outside and went out to find the high school marching band in the middle of our neighborhood playing Christmas Carols. We live next door to the stadium and hear them practice all year long so at Christmas they show up unannounced and just start playing in the street. Neighbors all come out in their cozy clothes and sing (mostly about Jesus) together. I sat on the curb with my sick husband and our 3 little kids and almost cried. Here’s to Christmas and all its magic.