“It’s already Christmas Eve and I feel like it never really felt like Christmas all month,” I looked up at Nanny Sam with a face of absolute disappointment. Externally of course I’m sure it seemed that The House of R was having the merriest Christmas of all, the tree was up, the banisters were lined in Garland, the elf could be found in the most playful of spaces, and outside the cold weather perfectly nipped at our ears and throats.
I couldn’t quite put my finger on what had happened to Christmas or its spirit that year but I felt as if I had let my kids down. The magic of Christmas itself is the most meaningful present I have to offer and somehow I felt like we had missed the entire thing. Perhaps it was Mr. R’s frequent emergency room visits as he battled his own warring disabilities. Or perhaps it was losing my wedding ring in a hospital recliner while spending nights sleeping by my sweet grandmother’s bed. It had seemed this year our son B had arrived with an unusually large chip on his shoulder (which considering the situations going on at both homes was completely rational).
Being in Alabama was also hard, I was away from my family, and equally as important I was away from my beloved Houston. No ice skating in Discovery Green, no Nutcracker at the Wortham, no cookie decorating at Granny’s, or Festival of Lights at Moody Gardens. Instead we were stuck here in Alabama with no family, no traditions, and this year in particular no time to focus on the Christmas Spirit.
I could collapse to defeat or decide I was going to take Christmas head on. In that moment I pulled out the ingredients to make a quick batch of cookies, whipped up some sprinkles and icing color pens we had from a science experiment earlier that month. Together we wrote a letter to Santa and placed our cookies by the fireplace with the note. We sat as a family and read The Night Before Christmas on the living room sofa.
After the kids were asleep in our beds we visited with Grandmother who would have the unexpected blessing of joining us for Christmas morning as we wrapped last minute gifts and I felt a sort of spiritual bond with my father as I pieced together Li’l A’s new tricycle. We laughed, we told stories of Christmas past, we munched on cookies with cocoa, all while Classic Christmas movies played up on the screen. And at the end of the night as I turned back to turn out the lights, the soft festive glow of the tree illuminated the sprawling pile of gifts and I felt a warm sensation of magic I had not felt that entire year. It was the back to basics Norman Rockwall kind of Christmas and it at that point had become my most favorite Christmas of all.