Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Prepare, Anticipate, Wait, Hope, Believe... the verbs that bring us ever closer to Christmas.

For many years, one favorite part about preparing for Christmas was decorating the tree. Sometimes, I've managed to whip up a fresh batch of cookies alongside a hot mug of cocoa just before tree trimming began. We'd have the Christmas carols already queued up on the CD player with a fire crackling gently in the background. We'd take our sweet time unwrapping each ornament, reveling in the memory of where it came from or when we got it, joking about where to put THAT ORNAMENT - you know, that hideous one that you keep hoping will break-- yet every year, it remains indestructible. We'd stop to admire our work, munch on some cookies, sip our cocoa, perhaps pause for a lovely photo shoot, carefully framing one child or another in a worth-a-thousand-words picture.

This year? Yeah, not so much. No photographic proof of this year's decorating, please. It was Frantic. Crazed. Loud. Crying and fighting over the ridiculous possessiveness of inanimate objects quickly ensued. We had a mute two year old who would get frustrated, then start slinging and hurling ornaments at us when he didn't get what he wanted. Aidan (whom I dubbed "Tree Nazi" under my breath) was ordering Leo not to touch ANY ornament that wasn't his, then gloating over all the ornaments that he (Aidan) had made or had been given. I desperately searched through box after box (while dodging Pax's pitches) to find ONE ornament that had Leo's name on it, but could only unearth more of Firstborn's. (I had a sudden flashback to my own "unfair" childhood of having a brother 7 years my senior with four sets of doting grandparents and great-grandparents whose tradition was shower him with ornaments.... that tradition lost its luster by the time I came along. I spent my childhood trying to catch up.) Jeff was inexplicably occupied with... I have no idea what. Something, in another room.

We had eaten all the snickerdoodles the day before, so we didn't have any cookies to nosh on. It was 60 degrees and sunny, ruling out the hot cocoa and crackling fire. And our recently-replaced ipod didn't have Christmas songs on it; our new laptop doesn't have itunes yet. With cacophonous and loud voices, Aidan and Leo sang "Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg..." until in total desperation I went old-school and scrounged up the *actual* CD from whence all this music originated (... and played it on the DVD player, because who even has CD players anymore?)

But the music did little to cover up the wails and whines of the natives. We got approximately 1/8 of the ornaments hung up when I called it quits. "That's it!" I shouted in exasperation. "We're finished. I'm not doing this any more." I was really, really annoyed that these children were ruining my favorite part of decorating.

I pouted for awhile. No one noticed, no one else seemed disappointed.... except for me. I brooded over this for awhile, until I eventually realized - this year, prepare, anticipate, wait, hope, believe wouldn't include lovely memories of tree trimming - but it would include other things, instead. (Like me, finishing the decorating by myself, wine in hand and Harry Connick, Jr. crooning in the background.) And that's okay.

Prepare: the kids were dead-set on making gifts for each other again this year, even though I offered to take them shopping, individually, for gifts for each other. I love this. The hand-made's tale is working; the kids balked at store-bought gifts. Aidan already knew exactly what he wanted to make for each of his brothers, and my heart swelled with the warmth of his kindness.

Anticipate: Leo can't stop talking about being the Angel Gabriel in this year's Christmas Pageant. He loves what message Gabriel brings to Mary. "You know what that angel, you know what he said to that girl who had Jesus? He said Do not be afraid."

Wait: for new memories to be made, for new traditions to cherish.

Hope: that our service projects turn out as well as we've planned them to be. That we earn enough money to buy our goat for a family in Africa, that Jeff's patients will enjoy homemade cookies, that our church is well-fed with the communion bread we'll bake. That Jeff and I will choose a woman who will prosper through the help of our microloan. (Elaboration required in a future post).

Believe: in Santa. (Again- another future post to come.) Believe in the good news that comes with the celebration of Jesus' birth. Believe in kindness and goodness and generosity and compassion and love that is most evidenced this time of year.

...and know, with certainty, that tree trimming will become a lovely, calm, cherished tradition again. And in the meantime, I will love the chaos and the cacophony, and the children who make it so.


gthiele said...

Beautiful! Thank you, Anne for these words of wisdom. I can picture your tree trimming experience :), and then can feel the calm that occurred later. Wonderful !!

Nurse Jeff said...

I love your blog Annie! I love to have been at the mosh pit that was our tradition this year; then get to read it through your eyes. You are such an amazing writer and I love you! Thank you!