This Christmas was awesome.
Not every Christmas is, but this one was the best ever for our family. Partly because it was the first Christmas that we celebrated as a complete family, as it was Drew's first Christmas. Partly because Christmas was on a Friday, giving us the weekend as well and meaning our celebrations were spread out with one the weekend before, and six celebrations over four days instead of five in two days. We were able to relax and enjoy our family, and take the time to really take in Christmas.
It was also, in our opinion, the last Christmas of it's kind.
I think everyone reaches a point in life where you become aware that things are going to soon change. Marty is spoiled in that he still has all of his grandparents still here on earth. My great Uncle Jim and great Aunt Helen are 94 and 93. Together, Marty and I have lost two family members in the nine years we have been together. Considering the sizes of our families, that is amazing. (This is my Mom's side of the family, and it is one of the smaller groups.)
But Grandparents get cancer. Close relatives have Alzheimer's. There are family members in their nineties, and surprises happen. Christmas is going to change soon.
Marty and I talked a bit about this before Christmas started. We both feel that next Christmas will look different. We worked hard to take in every minute, and appreciate the last Christmas in an era of Christmases.
I have been spending the last few days sorting through the mental pictures I have taken, and doing my best to sort them in the hard drive of my mind. The kids' wide-eyed wonderment at the whole experience,Every laugh, especially when everyone got an orange in their stocking except my brother, who got an onion instead, every smile, the excitement when you know you have gotten someone the perfect gift, every conversation. (And no, that's not his real hair. The jokes just keep coming around here!) When my Dad brought out the coupon book that I gave him as a child, and I paid him the IOU of ten hugs, I cherished every embrace.
When my daughter opened her gift from Santa and found a camera, and then told me "Mom, when I grow up, I want to be a photography, just like you!" I savored the sweet look on her face. Snapshots in time, locked away in my mind to be relived again and again.
I received a wonderful gift this year. Well, I received several wonderful gifts, but my favorite was this:It's a cookbook. The couple on the cover are my great-great grandparents, the ones who first came to America from Sweden. Over one hundred seventy five family recipes spanning five generations compiled together in a book, with the genealogy of the family member(s) who submitted each recipe. There is our family history, including Otto and Elise's journey from Sweden to America, and their life in the Pacific Northwest. The house in the picture (that Otto built himself) is still standing in Seattle by Greenlake, and is still in the family.
This is a gift to be cherished.
This was a Christmas to be cherished.
We leave this Christmas season with nothing but love in our hearts and joy on our faces, knowing that we are truly blessed to know ahead of time to truly embrace this Christmas. It wasn't about the gifts, or the food, or Santa. It was about gathering together everyone we love and celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior with joy and thanksgiving.
And boy, are we thankful.
I am thankful for my family, and my married-into family. I am thankful for my wonderful husband and our four incredible children. And I am so thankful that we got one more Christmas together as a huge group of people who love each other and love the Lord. I will never forget this year, and I sincerely hope next year brings back the same people to the same places, celebrating with all we have, until there is nothing left to give.
Merry Christmas, everyone!