’Twas Christmas Day, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, least of all me or my spouse.
We were exhausted.
On Christmas Eve, we hosted dinner for half of our family, the three adults and four children who live nearby.
The big kids helped get the food on the table while the little kids chased my husband around the living room. Then, we took our seats at the table and bowed our heads as my daughter led us in giving thanks for the gifts of family and food and Christmas.
Next came the “crackers” — party favors that popped open with a loud POP! and scattered tiny toys across the table. It’s an English tradition my husband picked up when he lived in London. (I think it’s fun, but where I grew up, “cracker” has a different connotation.)
Dinner included beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes, veggies, salad and rolls; and for dessert, tiramisu and bakery-made Christmas cookies. My husband said I outdid myself. Yes, he is a very smart man.
After dinner, I read aloud the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke, and I loved watching the faces of young and old alike light up with joy at its meaning.
Then, we opened gifts. It took work, but we made the best of it.
Here’s an odd thing about me and Christmas: I never seem to remember gifts I’m given. I just recall smiles and laughter and hugs from loved ones who are with me in person or memory. For me, those are the real gifts.
As our family drove away, my husband and I stood out front waving goodbye. Then, we came inside and watched “Elf.”
Christmas Day was quiet. We slept late, then spent time on the phone and FaceTime with loved ones near and far.
Finally, that night, as we sat down to a supper of leftovers, we looked at each other over a wilted centerpiece, lifted our glasses and mumbled, “Cheers.”
Then, we just ate. No talking. No laughing. No smiles. It was not what you’d call merry.
When we finished, I said, “You want a Christmas cookie?”
He said “sure,” and I went to fetch the few that were left.
Meanwhile, he found a couple of the cracker toys — little, plastic wind-up Santas — hiding by the centerpiece. And when I came back, he wound them up and sent them waddling across the table at me. So, I wound them up and fired them back at him.
Then, for a while, we talked and laughed, two people of a certain age, eating Christmas cookies and sending wind-up Santas waddling back and forth across the table at each other.
His Santa was faster. But mine liked to spin and twirl.
I wish you could have seen us.
Life is made of moments. Some are big, such as falling in love, or giving birth, or hosting a houseful of loved ones for Christmas dinner. Others are small, such as a smile from a stranger you pass on the street, or a pat on the back when you need it, or a little plastic Santa waddling at you across a table.
Big and small, we need them all to cherish and to remember and to make us feel truly alive.
Looking back on 2021, the second year of the pandemic, I remember many wonderful moments — notably, the birth of my granddaughter, Leilani.
But I often felt I had to look harder to find them. To see the smile behind the mask. To sense the warmth in social distancing. To feel the kisses my grandson, Jonah, gave me on FaceTime.
I don’t want to have to look hard for moments, big or small. I want to see them everywhere, even with my eyes closed.
So for 2022, I have two wishes for us all: First, to be done with the pandemic in every possible way; and second, to be blessed with countless great moments, big and small and full of life.
What will matter most in the year ahead, as it did in the past, is not so much what it will bring but what we choose to make of it. Here’s to making it the best.