Christmas, childhood: our tradition included opening one present the night before. We could pick it, and we delighted in picking the ones for our parents too. We set out cookies and milk, which I am certain my father had no trouble mysteriously devouring for us. We opened presents immediately the next morning, in our pajamas. I remember a cardboard play house we built for my sister; I left a squishy unicorn sticker on the ceiling. I remember the year we got our American dolls, the year they first came out. Can you guess which I requested? Mine was Molly and my sister's was Kirsten, leaving Samantha and no others, at that point. I loved those slick books, the illustrations, the history lessons at the end. We had a late lunch / early dinner--something along the lines of turkey or ham. In middle school, I asked to accompany friends to the candlelight service at the Presbyterian church; I loved the way everything twinkled, the mystery and comfort of the dark, the beauty of the hymns rising up.
After moving away, our holidays have changed. Each year is slightly varied--but much of the changing relates to the expansion of our family--now I have in-laws, and those in-laws have babies, and Kelly is having a baby, and everywhere little ones are sprouting up. Mandy is a new-mom, Jen is twenty weeks and apparently the baby is already bumping around in there.
The holidays are now about growing families, about new traditions. I have now spent Christmas morning with my husband's family for three years, last year even attending the late night mass at his parents' Catholic church, and this year, I slept at their house, woke up to a Christmas of pancakes and coffee cake, music playing and the shudder of four dogs barreling through the house.
We made gingerbread, and though it was sticky and frustrating and our shapes resembled some monstrosity, I think it was nice, this kneading and shaping, this renaming of the holidays. This way that our homes have many components, many places--making Minnesota gingerbread cookies in Wisconsin, as we thought about our siblings in California, Texas, New Jersey, as I thought about all the places my graduate school applications are being sent to (California, Texas... New York, etc.). Thinking about the way we make our homes into a refuge.
The way I am so grateful for the family I have--the little one in Minnesota, with our four dependent creatures, with Penelope pressed against my side, with Zephyr snuffling through the pile of blankets, with Gatsby snoring at my feet, with Libby snarling from the window.
With my husband, who I feel giddy about, whose hand I always want to hold, whose smile makes my heart burst, whose companionship I would be lost without. The gifts we are given that don't come in packages--the love that I have for the people in my life, my husband, my best friend, my family, my friends.