Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas

The presents are unwrapped and the children's anticipation of so many months has come to fruition.  Now they get to enjoy the fruits of their patience... and for Dennis and me to regret some of the obnoxious gifts that we bought for them.

I can see why Christmas can be a difficult and nostalgic holiday for those who no longer have children in their home.  It's the pure joy and ecstasy in the children's faces that makes standing in the long lines, the gift wrapping, and the sour renditions of Christmas carols on the radio all worth it.  I already know I'm going to ache for these days once they are gone.

Yesterday morning as we were trying to decide on a game plan for the day, we decided to give the kids each a $10 budget and allow them to buy a gift for one of their siblings.  Names were drawn from a bowl, and we trooped over to the mall, and split up into two teams.  Of course we all ended up in the same store- the only toy store in the mall- and spent the entire time trying to select and purchase gifts without the others knowing what we were buying for them.  So much fun.

After we got home, I invited the kids to come into my room to wrap the gift that they had bought for their sibling.  I had Camden and Luke come in together first.  As I pulled out the Christmas wrapping paper, tags, and bows from under my bed, Camden looked down and saw written on one of tags, "To: Calista - From: Santa."  And to make it worse, he recognized that it was in my handwriting.

Almost instantly his eyes filled up with tears and with a shaky voice said, "So Santa isn't real?"  The immediacy of his conclusion told me that the doubt had been lingering on the tip of tongue for quite some time.  I'm not surprised, he's a smart kid.  If anything, I'm surprised he didn't said anything sooner.

Maybe this is the right time to tell him, I thought.

"Camden, do you want to know the truth?  I'll tell you if you want to know," I said.

"Yes, tell me," he said.  Then almost immediately, "No, don't tell me.  I don't want to know if Santa isn't real," he answered with big crocodile tears welling up in his eyes.

I was surprised.  I had no idea that his belief in Santa meant so much to him.  The concept of Santa is one I've long struggled with.  When he was a toddler, I debated whether we were even going to teach him to believe in Santa.  So many children (and adults) have lost the entire meaning of Christmas based on their greed that is fulfilled by the fat man in the red suit, and I've always resented that about this Santa fellow.

But seeing the tears in his eyes and his desperate wish to believe in him, I just couldn't do it.

"Camden, sometimes Santa needs help from parents like us, to help him get the gifts all ready.  Can you imagine how much work it is to give gifts to all the children of the world?  Even a million elves wouldn't be enough.  I just filled out the label for the gift that Santa bought for Calista."

Relief washed over his face followed by an ear-to-ear smile.  "I knew it!  I knew Santa was real!"

And just like that, it was forgotten and we moved on to wrapping the gifts we had bought.

I wonder what it is about this belief in an elusive, magical character who climbs down chimneys, and rides on flying sleighs, that children cling onto so desperately.

And then my mind goes back to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines, and the other atrocities that children are forced to come to terms with in today's world.  It's no wonder they hang on with every ounce of childlike faith that they can muster.  There needs to be an overarching messenger of good and benevolence in their little minds.  Not only in their minds, but mine as well.  I have to believe that there is a greater plan to this all.  Without it, life would be a never ending pit of despair and shattered dreams.  I imagine their understanding of a greater plan will evolve and grow with each passing year as mine has.  But for now, let them fall asleep on Christmas Eve with visions of magic as they listen for the sound of reindeer hooves and bells on the roof.

Moving


Well, we finally sold our house and have moved into the rental that we will be living in until we are done building our new home.  I didn't say much about it on my blog before because of the uncertain nature of home sales.  We received an offer from the buyers in mid-November, but it wasn't until the first week in December that the home inspection was completed and we received the appraisal value for our home, along with the go ahead that the sale would surely go through.  It left us a little over a week to pack up and move out.  Needless to say, it was a busy week, from early in the morning until midnight every night.

As I took the first picture off the wall to start packing, my heart ached.  I've always thought that a home is only a house unless there are family pictures and memorabilia on the walls.  After the first day of packing, with all of the pictures stripped from the walls and the d├ęcor boxed up I felt so much sadness, as though I were saying goodbye to one of my own children.

Our home had been a bare bones, cookie cutter house when we bought it in 2006 during the housing boom.  With each passing year we had made it our own, with Dennis planting trees, installing the beautiful landscaping, granite counter tops, a beautiful fireplace, tile flooring, and so many other things that made us really love our home.  So many loving hours that he had poured into our home.  Having grown up moving around so often as a child and in my early adult years, this was the only home that I ever lived in for longer than 3 1/2 years.

As I cleaned and scrubbed on my hands and knees each day as we were preparing to leave, I wondered if I was going a bit over board in getting the home ready for the buyers.  Each night I went to bed with aching hips and sore knees, but I couldn't bring myself to leaving the house in any lesser condition than I felt it deserved. It had been a good home to us, one that I had brought three of my four babies home from the hospital to.  It had sheltered us through the bitterest of storms, and bloomed so beautifully each spring.  Yes, it's probably overly sentimental, but some of the sweetest memories I'll ever have in my life came from within those walls.  My heart swells with gratitude when I think of it.

As I walked through the empty house the day of the closing, I couldn't bring myself to take any pictures.  It was too painful.  I walked into the pantry and realized that I had forgotten to erase the children's growth charts that we had written in pencil on the pantry walls.  Erasing them hurt the very most.  I felt like it summed up so much of what had happened in that house over the past 7 and a half years, so I photographed only that.

We've since talked with the new home owners and they've expressed over and over how much they love the house.  It eases the pain a little to know that another family will love our home as we did as they grow their own memories.