Posted by: morrowsl | December 16, 2019

Silent Night

Yesterday was one of those rare and wonderful days that settle around your shoulders at day’s end and bring you a peace you’d forgotten possible. Our family gathered around a big long table to share our Christmas meal, then again around our little tree to open Christmas presents. I had not thought it possible for us to ever do either again with even a shred of unforced laughter or kindness toward each other.

I am wonderstruck by the impact of my mistake. And by the depth of my gratitude.

Several years ago we suffered through a series of events that brought about a near civil war. The details are unimportant, but suffice to say that it is the sort of thing confronted in the family dynamic that tests every person’s tolerance and trust. Each time we came together, the tension was palpable. The stress of trying, and failing, to bring about any resolution left me in tears, and oftentimes angry enough to disown the whole lot.

So, when I asked if we might find a day to hold our family event, I did so with a lump in my throat and a knot in my gut.

Within ten minutes of my outgoing text, we had a date and a spot. We would meet in town for our meal, then assemble at Remote for presents. All the while I shopped and wrapped and cleaned and decorated, I did so with a nagging worry that this would be yet another failed attempt to mend our family fences and see cohesion and harmony. I hit the first snag when I called to reserve a space for our party of eleven and discovered the restaurant closed at exactly the same hour we’d planned to eat.
Again, within minutes of sending the text, it was all resolved. We’d eat earlier in the day.

Things snagged again when I failed to clarify wether we were meeting at our house or the restaurant. And again when the address provided by the restaurant website took half of the party to the opposite end of town! By the time we walked in, my shoulders were up around my ears.
But everyone arrived within minutes of our reserved time and had a chance to choose their places without much jockeying of chairs. It helped to have the oldest folks in the middle. And to have plenty of choices for great food that none of us was dead tired from preparing. And to have four kids that can’t help being happy about Christmas.

Back home, the youngest grand was counting down the minutes to turning into a pumpkin, so we all took to the stairs and sorted ourselves out around our little pre-lit four foot tree. Each year, someone plays “Santa” and hands out gifts. The youngest seemed a bit overwhelmed by the number of presents he was tasked with opening, but that disappeared as soon as he realized there were toys underneath the paper. The oldest, with his eleven years of experience, tore through paper and boxes in a flash. The girls, sandwiched between the boys in age, took the time to actually read gift tags and look at contents. And the adults carried the day with no comments under their breath. In all, it was the first time since our implosion that I actually felt like Christmas could be a happy family holiday.

When we were looking for a house in the country, I spent a lot of time recalling memories of my own grandparents’ final home. They chose a spot on a hill above the Brazos River where they could have a garden and orchard and where my grandpa would have easy access to fishing. Grandpa built a tidy two-bedroom, one bath, frame house and every Christmas Eve we packed it to bursting with family. If the kids stayed over, we slept on the floor or our family rented a cabin on the next hill over from Grandma’s. There were countless hours spent helling the hillsides with a pack of cousins. In summer we went barefoot and got dirty, our hair bleached almost white in the sun and our skin pecan brown. In winter we brought reality to “over the river and through the woods” as to Grandmother’s house we went. When I looked for a house in the country, I was looking for a feeling that those memories brought to my mind.

Yesterday, I found it.

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