This Christmas I wanted to take notes. Pay attention to the details, the sounds, the smells, the conversations, yet when the last kid got on the plane, the last box of ornaments was tucked in the attic and my new Roomba aggressively buzzing around, scooping up stray pine needles, I sat down to write and it was hard. It was hard because I didn’t actually pay attention to the details. It was too fast paced. And It was hard because the sun is out, shining brilliantly, the trees are frosted, the days are getting longer. It is a perfect, chilly January day and it is hard to notice anything but that.
Turning my back on this glorious day, I close my eyes and reflect. Twenty days ago (was it only twenty days ago?) I walked out of school at the start of Winter Break. We picked up my mother-in-law Nancy that same night and then there was a blur of Pre-Christmas activities. Church. Beautiful, colorful, magical tours of Christmas lights. A gingerbread Viking boat. Home-made Tamales. Never mind that we hadn’t made them before. Never mind that I thought I could follow a you tube demonstration with a woman who spoke much too fast, andnever mind that I used a recipe, found on Pinterest called “White Girl Tamales.” In the end we enlisted help, and, with a little coaching, if I don’t say so myself, it turned out to be a delicious Christmas Eve dinner!
Christmas Eve, Sixteen days ago. Everyone SWORN to stay in bed until at least 8:00 am, allowing a good nights sleep, but not without reminiscing about the years and years of late, late, late nights, struggling to stay up longer than the girls, only to awaken a few short hours later, by excited girls with shining eyes, “Santa was here!”
Christmas day was hours of present opening, phone calls and face time with loved ones. A difficult and decadent meal. There were naps, puzzles, conversation and brunch. A brunch complete with mimosa’s and Scott’s home-made cinnamon rolls. We went to bed content that night and the snow fell, drifting down in big, fat, slow flakes that twirled under the street light and covered everything in a fresh blanket of white.
Because of the snow, and the cold and the house full of gingerbread and tamales and prime rib we nested down. We nested down for the next three days. We pulled our blankets around us and read good books and worked on a new puzzle and pulled old crosswords out of the recycle bin, working on them as a team.
And then we cleaned. And cleaned. We freshened sheets, scrubbed the tub, tossed leftovers and made room in the fridge. We set up the pack and play, attached the booster chair and placed gates at the top of the stairs. Frustrating locks were put on cabinets and bedroom doors. We spent a bitterly cold afternoon installing a car seat and then we were ready. Ready for Sarah and Katie to arrive with our eighteen month old grandson, Weston. Ready for Laura and her new husband to arrive, all on the same plane, it took two cars to pick them up.
At the the airport, waiting at the gate, in this small town where everybody knows you first one and then another of our friends deplaned. Both stopped with a friendly smile to tell us how loud and unhappy Weston was on the plane, and that we needed to have a drink ready for his mommas.
And there she was, Sarah, with Weston in her arms, looking calm, but giving me “that” look. She was followed by Katie, hauling all the accoutrements that come with a toddler. The second Sarah was through security she thrust Weston in my arms and gave me a hug. My grandson looked at me, all innocence and curiosity. There was no sign of the screaming baby I was expecting. He didn’t smile because he never smiles at first, but he reached out and touched my face. His fingers were so chubby (and a little sticky). And his little face was so close to mine, and his hair was like a halo and his eyes were so blue and his cheeks were rosy. He patted my face then smiled at me and my heart melted.
The next six days. Six days of busyness, and laughter and wine and beer and holiday cocktails… So. Many. Pots. Of. Coffee. Meals fixed together. Meals eaten together scrunched around our dining table, elbows touching, shoulders rubbing, Weston pulled up in his high chair. Meals consumed with love and conversation, refilling plates and glasses. Meals that went on forever.
Days spent with some going this way and others going that way. Meeting up with old friends, eating favorite Crab and brie and oysters. Afternoons at the swimming pool or shopping or walks on the docks. Going to Ocean View just because you always go to Ocean view. Bundled up because it was cold and clear and beautiful. Evenings spent playing games, sharing remembrances, laughter. So much laughter.
Football games on the TV. Aunt and Uncle join us for the Hawks game, game day snacks and trip planning and videos of the newest baby in our family. Gonzaga Basket Ball, Rose Bowl Parades, the TV adding a white noise in the background.
It is New Year’s Eve. Scott, Nancy and I team up to baby sit a sleeping Weston so the kids can go celebrate. We are not far into a game of Mexican Train when we hear him rustle. He is sleepy and cuddly and we take turns attempting to rock him to back to sleep. Giving up, we snuggle with him, feeding him Cherrios and watching “Sing” as we ring in the New Year. It is pretty perfect. We toast and Weston actually says “Cheers!”
Soon it is time to put them back on the plane. We spread it out this time, not wanting a repeat of last year when they all left same time, same day. Breaking our hearts.
Nancy left a bit later, then after a few days of binge watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” we put Laura and David on the plane with plans to see them soon.
Despite my plans to remember those conversations, the meals we ate, the jokes we told, I have to admit it is a bit of a blur. And yet, without knowing those exact words, what I do remember, and remember well and will always remember is the thickness of it. I can almost put my hands around the feelings I had. I can feel it.