Posted on: Saturday
We didn't expect it to be the best one yet.
We always try to celebrate the holidays simply, and to focus on tradition and experience over tangible things, but this year we had intended to have very simple Christmas. Baby Lou's (it looks funny typing that but we really do all call him 'Baby Lou' at home! I'm beginning to fear that the name will really stick and that Biet will still call him that when he's twenty..) never-ending curiosity and reckless attempts at standing up on everything nixed the option of a big tree, so we brought home the prettiest little potted miniature tree we could find. We kept the decorations simple this year, the Christmas outings to a minimum, and the gifts on a teeny tiny budget. Focusing instead on music, food, and family time together around our little tree, we knew our simple Christmas would be warm and happy. But we never expected it to be this amazing.
The deliveries started showing up a couple of weeks out. First a tiny box, then a medium, and finally a HUGE one, all from my sisters. My two sisters are a couple of crafting geniuses, baking enthusiasts, and holiday aficionados. One mention of a "simple Christmas" to them over the phone, and they began spinning their magical holiday web from which no one, and I mean no one, escapes. Suddenly our "one gift per person" idea flew out of the window, and our kids once again had the luxury of being spoiled by their Aunties. I miss my sisters terribly pretty much all of the time, but especially at the holidays.
Then a box arrived from Portland with my name on it. I opened it to find a collection of old hand-sewn ornaments that my mother had made decades ago, when she was alive. She used to hand-make everything, from paintings to food to art, and would singlehandedly turn every holiday into a whimsical dream for the kids. I remember bits and pieces, glimpses and faded memories, from when I was small. She was magic. That's most likely where my sisters get it from. She used to sew beautiful stockings for everyone in the family too, usually shaped like a boot or whatever kind of shoe they fancied. One year, when I was about three I think, she sewed my Dad an amazing intricate quilted stocking, and filled it, as a joke, with coal. I remember us three girls thinking that was just the funniest thing in the world. When I found in the box, underneath the ornaments in the very bottom, a faded red velvet stocking of hers, I began to tear up. She had likely hand-sewed it about 40 years ago and holding it in my hands felt like she was with us again. That stocking became Biet and Lou's this year to share. It felt like a perfect way to give my own children a little piece of the magic that I remembered of my mom.
On Christmas morning Lucien awoke first, smiling and bouncing across the bed and climbing upon his Papa's head, as usual. Then Biet yelled out from her room to announce to the world that she too was awake. We swept them up and headed to the kitchen for orange juice and coffee, purposely avoiding the living room so that they wouldn't see the gifts before we had time to grab a camera to capture their reactions. We told them that today was Christmas, and how excited we were to have presents to open under the tree. We let Biet lead the way, through our room, through her room, through the old wooden door, and into the living room. The stocking, stuffed full, rested on Biet's little rocking chair, and the presents lay softly piled under the tree. Hidden under a sheet on the floor was the wooden blue kitchenette which Gaby and I had spent hours putting together the night before. While the kids were dreaming of sugarplums, we had carefully unpacked the boxes from my sisters, tightened bolts, aligned cupboards, and attached handles. We were beyond excited to see Biet's face when she opened it.
In front of the tree, Gaby and I beamed at one another. In that moment, as our kids experienced their first Christmas together, it really hit me: I was a mother of children, whipping up holiday magic and joy for my brood, just as my mother had. And I was doing a good job at it. These were the moments they would remember forever. Baby Lou happily crawled around, pulled himself up on the rocking chair, and began to tug at the stocking. Biet just stared, a bit confused. Then her confusion turned to understanding, shock, and finally elation. She pulled the sheet back and saw the tiny kitchen, and froze. She started whispering, "what. what. what? what?!" and began slowly opening all of the cupboards and looking inside the shelves. "Mama, its blue. Its BLUE! It's a kitchen! A kitchen for Biet!" she squealed. My heart was bursting. She had wanted a kitchen for so long. When we revealed Lou's gift from his Aunties, a tiny red piano, I don't think you could find happier kids in the whole city. Then a trumpet, the one thing Biet had asked Santa for when she sat on his lap for the first time earlier this month, and a jar of marmalade (like Paddington Bear's, which she had been requesting for weeks) joined the party, and things really got crazy. A morning of cooking, singing, and music-playing commenced. And our first Christmas as a family of four became the best Christmas we've ever had.
The day drifted on happily in our little apartment with pots simmering, cookies baking, children playing, babies and dogs napping, parents relaxing, and everyone thinking about how fortunate we all are to have so much love, family, and generosity in our lives. Throughout the day I kept thinking about how blessed we are, how truly blessed.
//last Christmas// + //Biet's first Christmas//
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