The house is quiet for 9:30 in the morning.
The only sounds are the North Atlantic wind whipping around the square corners of our cottage, the loud ticking of the kitchen clock and, in the distance, heard through two sets of spiral staircases, Tony preaching to someone about database management in some distant office building. He’s tucked into is “office corner” with his first cup of coffee, a broken chocolate covered pretzel, “I’ll help you with that…” and warmed by his homemade house socks.
Why is it so quiet? Two of the boys are in trouble for fist fighting before breakfast (yes, really, and yes, OUR kids!) The other two are studying as hard and fast as they can in hopes of an early completion.
They’re hoping hard that their best friends will arrive in a few hours… but we’re not too sure about that.
It seems Miss Jillian, Elisha’s bosom buddy, was rushed to the ER last night with, perhaps, appendicitis. We’re all anxiously awaiting x-ray results and hoping for something akin to Ezra’s outcome a couple of months ago. If it’s something worse then we’ll load all of the food purchased for the weekend party here and the presents wrapped and waiting under the tree and take the party three and a half hours north and hand deliver the love to a hospital bed, if we must. But we’re still hoping for the best.
This weekend marks the official beginning of our Christmas celebrations, which will span the next three weekends and include friends and family from three states and two countries. The present suspension of plans, the mandatory patience, the suspense filled waiting to hear how one of our favourite girls is faring is not what anyone hopes for at Christmas. It’s not very “Norman Rockwell.”
But it is, I think, the essence of Christmas, in a historical sense.
We forget, sometimes, what Christmas is about, amid the jingle bells and blow up garden ornaments. As the story goes, a young couple on their first “backpacking” trip at a ridiculous stage of an unwanted pregnancy had an evening that didn’t go according to plan. Surely going into labour on donkey back was unexpected. A barn instead of a nice hostel, or medical center, or the historical equivalent would be no sane woman’s first choice. Where the heck was the midwife?
The Christmas story is about being uncomfortable.
- It’s about changing plans.
- It’s about being willing to do anything you have to for your family.
- It’s about living in the moment, packing light and traveling like a crazy person.
- It’s also about dropping everything to celebrate (the shepherds).
- Giving the best of what you have (the wise men).
- And partying like your family is the best one in all of history (the angels).
Whether or not you buy the whole package on the meaning of Christmas, surely we can all get behind that.
We’ve celebrated a couple of uncomfortable Christmases over the years. And a couple of Norman Rockwell ones too. The ones I remember best are the ones that found us living in a van, surfing on Christmas day (13 years old), or freezing in the African desert, or taking a kid with a broken foot to find a Dr. in my third language.
We’ve been working for a week to create the Norman Rockwell Christmas (we’re in the States this year, so we might as well, right?) There were a couple of long faces at the announcement that best friends may not be coming and plans might need to change drastically. And then, kids started schooling faster in case we have to pack and leave quickly. Fighting boys apologized, did their time standing and dove straight back into their house work, in case the best happens and our friends arrive. Worried kids peppered their friends’ e-mail in boxes with concerned questions about their sister. I took stock of the fridge, the clean laundry and the gifts, preparing to load the green donkey and go sleep in our friends’ barn (okay, basement) if necessary to deliver the long awaited love.
The lesson is a good one for me: Get less attached to the trappings and more attached to the people. Be willing to be uncomfortable. Be willing to drop “my thing” for someone else’s. Remember that the whole point to the whole thing: Christmas, Family, Life in general is Love. Be willing to Love, in the way other people need, not just in the ways that make me comfortable. Love can be life changing.
Isn’t that the point of the whole story?
Getting uncomfortable for Love?