I admit it – I felt a little crabby about putting up our Christmas tree so early this year. It went up the weekend after Thanksgiving, due to the fact that Matt would be away for parts of the following two weekends and there was no other time we could get it done before our Christmas trip to California. Thankfully, he was very motivated to put it up, bringing the ornaments up from storage and even going to the hardware store three times in one day for the right lights (what?? those newfangled LED lights were burning my eyes! i don’t want to live at Target!). Matt put on some Christmas music, hung the stockings, decorated the mantel, and strung some lights back by the kitchen. It didn’t matter that I was still eating leftover turkey, Christmas was here and someone else was doing most of it. For that I am thankful.
But now? With the huge snowflakes falling outside my windows and the heat warming the drafty spots in the house? With Christmas only a couple weeks away? I’m ready. After the busyness of our days, we come to the dinner table, where my old Windham Hill Christmas albums give the meal a distinct Norman Rockwell glow. With the lights down and a slew of festive candles lit, we share what we’re grateful for and eat together. Lyle, who doesn’t actually like a single thing on his plate, kindly tells me he’s grateful “for this delicious dinner” and thanks me. Well-trained, I tell you.
Later, Baxter’s flute practice centers around “Jingle Bells”, which he’s going to perform at a senior center this Saturday and then at the school’s winter concert next week. Unbelievably, despite the fact that we’re moving ever closer to Christmas, Lyle has been very relaxed. Each night he and I cuddle on the big guest bed outside their bedroom and read a stack of Christmas stories. Sometimes Baxter joins us but more often than not he’s happy for the opportunity to read in his own bed these days. Tonight (and last night) Lyle chose one of my own childhood favorites, “The Sweet Smell of Christmas“. I try not to fight him for the scratch n’ sniff pages. Then we move into their room where I sit on his bed and we sing Christmas songs from this marvelous book. It occurred to me tonight that Lyle had absolutely no idea who Jesus was and what Christmas is about, not remembering from the books last year. He loved hearing the story of Jesus’ birth, and I sang “Away in the Manger” to him again so he would understand it better. Although we are not Christians, I feel that the kids should have a good understanding of the origins of the holiday since we choose to celebrate it.
When Matt is away for work, especially on a trip like this week-long one to the other side of the earth, I tend to simplify life. I stay organized – the kitchen is clean, I keep up with laundry, and the coats, boots, shoes, backpacks, and instruments are laid out at night by whichever door each of us is leaving through in the morning. Lunches are made and in the refrigerator. Sometimes, when there is only one parent available to do it all it’s less stressful…no negotiations, no expectations that someone else might do what’s needed. This is not to say that I imagine full-time single parenting to be anything like this, it’s just the way it feels for me when I’m in this temporary state.
And so I sit on my couch under a warm blanket by the Christmas tree, the one with the soft white lights, not those harsh bright ones. The snow is falling outside, and although I have worries like everyone else and tomorrow is going to be a very full day, I’m feeling fortunate for this sense of peace and quiet tonight.