Let me begin by saying that the main problem with real Christmas trees, besides the shedding of their needles into the carpet, is that they feel that they should be watered regularly. So demanding! Such divas! Normally, I have to crawl under the tree with a pitcher and carefully fill the reservoir whilst trying to avoid poking my eye out on a branch. But this year, we invested 1.99 in a red plastic funnel (attached to a long tube,) which made the job soooo much easier. We'd found a gorgeous tree at Home Depot and had it decorated in fairly short order on Dec. 8, a full two days before Gray got home from college, and a week before our big family party. Shopping would get knocked out later in the week, so things were going well.
Then came the chicken pox scare. Suspicious red dots were all over baby Heidi, who had just returned with her parents from a trip to Africa. We immediately started looking at the calendar for alternative dates for Christmas. Frantic phone calls and weekend visits to acute care centers (plus lots of googling) gave us some reassurance that the dots were insect bites. Whew. Christmas was still on.
The day of the family dinner, I pulled out the china and we set up tables for twenty-five. Somehow, a simple chili-and-cornbread gathering became a sit down ham dinner by candlelight (because this is how we roll: we complicate things) and that's when the tree fiasco happened.
My fool-proof funnel system worked beautifully for watering the tree, but did nothing for the instability of the top-heavy tree in the stand. As I lifted a branch to check the water level, down it went, as if in slow motion, with a crash and a tinkling of shattered ornaments. I believe I screamed, "Noooooooo!" as it went, and vainly tried to grab a branch as it descended into the middle of the living room floor.
Gray walked in just then and put his hands on his hips as he surveyed the scene. There was a pause. "Well, poop," he said.
"My thoughts exactly," I replied, eyes closed and doing my Lamaze breathing. "Hooo. Heee. Hooo. Heee."
"Let's get this thing back up," he calmed me down with his business-like manner. He will make a great birthing coach someday. We wrestled the tree back into place and he re-fastened the screws at the base (see picture above). The ribbons and lights, which had been utterly perfect the first time around, were hastily rearranged (er, jammed) onto the tree. I had bigger fish to fry, namely finding enough silerware for 25 people, who would arrive in a few hours. It would have to do.
Tom returned from the laundromat, where he'd dried seven loads of wet laundry, due to the fact that our dryer had chosen to die the week before, and we simply couldn't go one more day without clean underwear or towels. We sprang back into action.
The Get-Together with my side of the family was awfully fun. The weather was nice enough for an after-dinner campfire, and all the lights Tom put up outside made it feel magical.
And, other than the flu outbreak on Christmas Day, the rest of the week went smoothly. I got lots and lots of baby time with the most adorable grandbabies IN THE WORLD, and we loved hanging out with our families, unhurried and unrushed.
Sometimes in the disasters of trees falling over, last-minute gifts, contagious illnesses, loads of wet laundry, and piles of dishes, we forget our best-laid plans to savor and enjoy the season. We become weary of the non-stop carols in the stores, and the family idiosyncracies that we are certain no one else on earth has to deal with.
But, oh. What a wonder.
Beneath the activities and stresses that inevitably happen, there is hope and love, and best of all, a Savior. There is generosity and kindness and whispers of "I love you," across the miles that separate family members and friends. Shoot, I didn't get my Christmas cards out this year (again) and I'm behind on a couple of December birthdays that snuck up on me. But really, it's all okay.
Because there is a thread that weaves us together into a family, whether by blood or by choice. It's a thread of love, and it's found in every casserole and cookie, and every gift under the tree. It's found in the Christmas story, which was read aloud by a new father, holding a squirmy toddler who only made it through the sentence "A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed," before sliding off his knee. I heard it in the boys' choir concert, and felt it when I tasted my Mom's Norwegian lefse, and saw it in the twinkling lights on the cedar tree out in the field.
"Peace on earth, good will to men."
Love came down.
His love rests upon you. Even in the Walmart return line. Even while finding where you can get Tamiflu. You are loved.
You are loved.