i surveyed the wilting garland on the staircase, droopy and scattering its needles, then tried to make some sense of the chaos before me. everything seemed to be leaning. a rumpled sprig of mistletoe hung over my head. weeble wobbles swayed between my feet next to a wisecracking spiderman doll. i persuaded Eli not to eat his entire chocolate Santa in one sitting, enticing him instead with half a dismembered gingerbread man and a dinner roll with butter before he headed out to play in the snow. he was clutching his new friend, Teddy, ("a sweet little bear, but not a real one because that would scare me"---as described in his letter to Santa Claus).
jeremy spent a good chunk of the morning pulling apart the broken dishwasher, while i hunted around for appropriate-sized batteries, folded laundry, and stole quick glimpses of my fabulous new cookbook--Miss Dahl's Voluptuous Delights, until Eli appeared at the back door with an ear-to-ear grin and presented me with a gift...a large chunk of snow encasing a petrified assortment of leaves, grass, and more than probably, chicken poop.
(page from sophie dahl's cookbook.)
we spent the afternoon with some dear friends who are like family to us, gathered around their table for Sunday lunch. it was nice to be amidst a larger group since we'd had our Christmas dinner as a family the previous night. it had been just the four of us, our dining table, and an enormous spread to give thanks over. jeremy and I roasted our first turkey together, carefully basting and poking at it every few minutes. while we cooked we munched on the stinkiest round of melting Camembert, spooned onto crackers with a dollop of fig jam. we caramelized shallots to mix with Brussels sprouts then sprinkled them with bacon and shreds of sundried tomato. we mashed butter and cream into potatoes, tossed a salad, then poured a glass of wine for me and a winter ale for the turkey-carver. for dessert, a buche de noel complete with a tiny, sugar-sculpted mushroom dusted in cocoa.
one of the joys of being home this Christmas season has been creating our own family traditions, like chocolate-filled croissants for breakfast and the buche de noel for dessert. and yes, while most roads do tend to lead to chocolate in this house, we managed a few traditions that did not involve eating. we adorned each window of our house with a wreath, watched The Polar Express ninety-nine times, and painted glass ornaments for the tree in our entry hall. Eli and i made reindeer food from glitter and rolled oats shaken in a brown paper sack, then flung it out across the lawn. of course there's also been cookie-baking and trying out French chicken dishes in our new enameled dutch oven, a gift from Jeremy's parents. both of these required liberal quantities of butter.
as i navigated through the heap of gifts yesterday---Eli's pile of lincoln logs, Millie's ride-on ladybug, the beautiful quilt my mom and i gave to Jeremy (i chose the fabrics, she did all the cutting, sewing, and crocheting), and the breathtaking work of art that my husband commissioned for me from our friend evie coates, i was struck by all we've been given. more than just the material things, as wonderful and lovely as they are, i was reminded that we are steeped in blessing so much deeper. how amazing to have this cozy home where we can sit and watch snow through the windows while listening to the church bells on Main Street chime the tune to "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem." it's a place where we can pile up together on a cold December night to read the Christmas story to our children, knowing that it's beginning to hold real meaning for them.
(artwork by evie coates.)
i have heard a few other people say this recently, and i am finding it to be true. there is a new kind of wonder that comes at Christmastime when you have children, and it's found in two equal parts. there's the joy that comes from seeing their faces light up with excitement--a beautiful, childlike kind of faith. and there's also a rediscovery--a way that observing your children plunks you back into the magic you felt when you were a child. suddenly, i had all of these detailed memories of my own footed pajamas and listening for reindeer hooves, snuggled down with my sister in her canopy bed.
this Christmas morning, i woke up at 6:30 to hear Eli whispering excitedly to the little stuffed animals in his bedroom. i tiptoed in and told him to go look out his window. when he saw the snow covering the driveway and treetops, he literally gasped in amazement. All four of us creeping down the darkened staircase in our pajamas a few minutes later, i re-lived that glorious Christmas morning feeling of giddiness and hope along with Eli. it's a feeling i wish would stick around when the day after Christmas comes, and the day after that, and the day after that. i've decided that even if it's only once a year, i'll take it and hold onto it for as long as i can, knowing that next December is just around the corner.