Very little about Christmas was what we’d hoped or expected. It was a lesson in my sister Kira’s new mantra: embrace more, control less, but I have to say that for days I’ve been waiting for the universe to drop a wisdom bomb on me that brings come clarity but said wisdom has yet to materialize.
We had plans for a big family Christmas for the first time in three years or so. For the past two years my parents have gone to Charleston for the winter before Thanksgiving, and spent Christmas there with my sister’s family. This year my parents decided to stay here for Christmas, which led my sister and her family to decide to travel up here for the holidays. Kira and I carefully planned out all of the details: a Christmas Eve party at my parents’ house, matching Christmas PJs for all of the cousins, gifts and our traditional Christmas morning breakfast at our house. I had dreams of going for a walk in the woods with all of the kids, there was talk of a movie in the theatre all together, so many possibilities. We were so excited when everyone arrived on the 22nd, and then on the 23rd Jonah came down with a fever. On the 24th his fever was still high and he clearly wasn’t well so Kristin took him to our pediatrician: Influenza A. All of our holiday plans were immediately wiped out. Half of the presents went back to my parents’ house, breakfast was cancelled, we would have our Christmases 10 minutes away from one another, separately, to avoid spreading germs.
Then it got worse. On Christmas Day, Vivienne, Jude and I all came down with the flu as well. Jonah had a brief recovery that allowed him to enjoy the day, and the kids still seemed excited about presents and Christmas magic, but we were all exhausted and feverish and did a lot of sleeping. I was bitterly disappointed and angry at the universe. There’s such a narrow window of years in which Christmas is truly magical, and it’s impossible to say when we’ll next have a chance to all spend it together with the cousins. Time with my sister and her family is so precious, and I felt like all of the potential for true quality time was snatched away from us.
Normally I want to keep the Christmas decorations up for as long as possible. They bring light and warmth and magic to a dark, grey season. But a day or two after Christmas I cried bitter tears to Kristin as I told her that I just wanted to take them all down immediately; they only represented all of my dashed expectations and hopes, all of the joy I’d planned for and envisioned as we put them up, and now they held no magic for me.
We’ve been trapped in the house for six days now, the kids have been doing a lot of bickering, I’m still exhausted and fighting a gnarly cough, as is Jude. I can’t believe that I have to go back to work in just a couple of days and there was nothing the least bit restorative in this “vacation.” Yesterday I decided that I was ready to turn my attitude around. I wanted to do some gentle yoga and get outside for a walk. Then I stepped on a piece of glass and was unable to extract it from my heel. I found myself hobbling around the house, unable to put any weight on my left foot. I told Kristin that I wanted to punch the universe in the face. She advised me to just acknowledge that feeling and let it pass.
This morning the sun came out for the first time in ages. It also snowed last night, the snow that we would have loved to have had on Christmas, when instead we had grey and mud. I sat on the floor and closed my eyes and let the sun shine through the window and onto my face and just soaked it in. I decided to bake the apple french toast muffins I’d planned to make on Christmas, so I slowly sliced brioche and peeled apples one tiny slice at a time, staying in the moment, enjoying their scent.
I want to move on from all of this anger and frustration and disappointment, so it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge all of the things that I am actually grateful for: the time we had all together before Jonah got sick, that I was well enough on the 24th to make quiche and peaches and cream french toast and prepare for Santa’s arrival, that Kristin has been so gracious and hardworking and supportive in nursing all of us back to health and taking care of literally everything, that the kids loved their gifts and had a good Christmas (Jonah even thanked me for the clothes that he received), and that for some reason they don’t seem at all displeased with the past six days. In fact, last night Vivi said that it had been the “best night ever” and when I asked her why, she said, “because I’m with my family.” It’s easy to forget that sometimes that’s all children need for happiness. They’ve had us all to themselves for the past six days, with unlimited cuddles. It may not have been the Christmas break Kristin and I envisioned, but it could have been a whole lot worse. So here’s to 2019, to starting fresh, and learning to let go and make the most of the hand we’re dealt.