please have snow and mistletoe and pesents on the tree."
i don't remember my exact age, but i remember being quite young when i first understood what this song was really saying. i don't remember exactly where i was when i figured it out, but i can recall the sense of wistfulness and the touch of sadness it brought - even in my happy youth. the thought that this singer would be home, but only in his dreams, seemed just not good enough. it wasn't right. it wasn't how it was supposed to be - at least not at christmas. last year was sort of like that for our family. even though bella knew nothing about us...nothing about snow and mistletoe ...nothing about home. we knew enough about her and already loved her enough to have dreams of her home for christmas. but that was last year.
every christmas eve, since the children were babies, i have had the pleasure of surprising them with new pajamas. even now, after all these years, they still act somewhat surprised. it is the role they play. i aid this a bit when i pretend there just may not have been enough time to accomplish the pajama purchase errand. it is a joke with the older kids, but connor, age 7, takes it all very seriously and, this year, asked me no less than 17 times if i had remembered the pjs. he is like that. funny how much tiny traditions mean to our children. christmas eve pajamas is definitely one of them. in addition to the pjs, they also get a special ornament the night before christmas. the ornament is usually a token connected to something specific in their past year. my attempt is to capture a little piece of them - something tangible. a little memory of who they are or what they've done and hang it on the christmas tree year after year. i suppose our tree is becoming a sort of 3D photo album...a type of family gallery. with five children it is certainly becoming quite full with these special momentos. i'll move out furniture and buy more trees before i'll give up this tradition, however.
okay, back to the pajama party. one of my favorite parts about this evening is placing the pjs in the kids' hands and then watching them race up the stairs or head for the nearest bathroom to shed church clothes for their comfy pjs. there is energy. excitement. enthusiasm. on most regular nights my children are not quite so eager to don pajamas. sometimes they are downright resistant, knowing bedtime is soon to follow. but not on christmas eve. this year, even my two teenagers were quick to skip up the stairs whooping and hollering as they went. it was a delightful sight for any mother. i love nothing more than the parade of their re-entrance, modeling their new night clothes as they come. now just imagine bella in the mix. bella who had never experienced even the tiniest bit of christmas. ever. there she was, this year, sitting with her two brothers and two sisters impatiently reaching toward me for her own new jammies, joyfully yelling, "mine!" she had little idea about what was going on. but she knew Something Certainly Was. she was right there with them dancing around in tiny circles, hopping up and down with two year old glee. you'd have thought i presented her with a pony as she carefully opened up the little package of pjs. utter and complete delight at nothing more than tops and bottoms with santa claus print.
it was well after 11 pm before we could usher this christmas bound crew into their beds. another christmas eve tradition, started years ago by our oldest, is the children all sleeping together in the same room. and so away they went....all five of them. covers and pillows and nightlights and favorite stuffed sleeping friends...all of them piled into one room. it wasn't the fastest "put down" we've had...but i have to tell you it was probably the best. all of them dreaming of christmas morning. all of them together. all of them home. i am sure they had all kinds of colorful christmas visions dancing through their heads. but the dancing vision for me was right there in that crowded little room. yes, i was excited about christmas morning. who isn't? yes, i couldn't wait to see their expressions and hear their exclamations. but i didn't need the morning to have a perfect sense of contentment. i didn't need santa or 8 tiny reindeer to land on my roof this night. i didn't need tinsel or lights or brightly wrapped packages under a tree. for me, my present came when i walked back into that warm room, laden with five sleeping children. there wasn't hardly a place for me to step. but i stood there and took it all in. i leaned against the doorway in a pool of dim hallway light and listened to the sighs and soft murmurs and dreams of my kids. i stood there and felt the overwhelming joy of a true christmas miracle. bella was home for christmas. and it was so much better than any dream.