It wasn't the Christmas I dreamed of. In fact, to be perfectly honest, for me it was a disappointing Christmas. In the days or perhaps weeks prior to December 24 I had muttered the mantra, "We've got to wrap presents. We can't leave them for the night before this year!" Only for Pedro and I to find ourselves after the kids went to bed on separate floors, he wrapping stocking stuffers in the living room and I wrapping gifts in our third-floor bedroom near a sleeping baby. (Oddly enough, the baby did sleep despite the loud stretching and snapping of tape and slicing of gift wrap with lights turned on nearby!) From time to time we crossed paths as I carried down a handful of presents. There was one rewarding moment of mutual appreciation as Pedro and I discovered that each of us had tuned in to the same movie on Netflix. A reminder that despite two floors' distance, we were connected after all. But then there was the sticky summer heat, and the bum knee, and then increasing weariness and the clock unapologetically inching. all the way. to 4 o'clock. in the morning. Sigh.
At 5 o'clock the baby woke and so did we in a stumbling daze to give him a bottle and settle him back to sleep. At 6 o'clock an army of elephants stomped up the stairs (aka, the five older siblings) in imminent delight of discovering Christmas gifts under the tree. I handed them Silas and mustered the strength to join them downstairs where they sat in semi-darkness and and filmed themselves singing "By low baby Jesus, born on Christmas morning" to their baby brother's sleepy-eyed amusement. I hadn't the heart to wake Pedro and so he missed the opening of stockings and the round of sibling gifts, the latter a first-time tradition this year. Later he expressed sadness at having not seen the kids exchange what they had chosen for one another, and remarked on the pointlessness of wrapping all the gifts only to not see them opened.
We did eventually wake Daddy and the kids seemed animated and happy at their Christmas morning, a fact we capitalized upon when leaving them to play and heading back to bed for a couple more hours' sleep. I failed to produce the expected and longed-for Christmas tradition of baked oatmeal with chocolate chips for breakfast, as the recipe must be made the night before and our "night" was altogether too short to do so. Instead the children enjoyed fresh thick pieces of moist brazo de reina cake (a jelly roll with manjar/dulce de leche inside) which had been a gift from our neighbor. Speaking of neighbors reminds me that nearly a week after Christmas we have yet to produce our annual trays of American goodies as gifts for them, yet another disappointment.
So many topsy-turvy realities in our life right now as ministry and family roles and responsibilities have been juxtaposed and interchanged and days slide into weeks and changes loom large and so, Christmas came and went like that. And in the midst of it all, perhaps bleeding emotionally into the weariness was the knowledge of so many hurting this time of year. We tried teaching the kids' carols and the stories behind them on days leading up to our celebration. We spoke of our "Christmas gift for Jesus" and followed through on our plans. We enjoyed a turkey dinner on the 24th with friends who also were in town without extended family. That night before Christmas, we read the Story and recalled the Reason for it all. The day of Christmas, we enjoyed watching Ian as Angel Gabriel and Owen as a bearded old shepherd and Alec as a brightly turbaned wise man in the church Christmas play. Later at home, we introduced the kids to the classic Dickens' A Christmas Carol to their curiosity (and some consternation!) There were good and happy moments in the midst of it all, too.
But somewhere, somehow, I feel that we missed something more. And so I pray this new year will allow us to follow the star and truly seek a better Christmas, starting from our hearts.