Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I heard the bells

What is your favorite Christmas memory? I was asked to share this at my ward enrichment activity tonight. All week I have sifted through my minds corridors and like the rest of my life, it's dusty, disorganized and devilishly scattered up there. Quite frankly I didn't know what the heck to say. On the drive to the church I still didn't know. The carol before I was to present my thoughts....I still didn't know. I have no lack of rich and pleasant memories but choosing one was the trick. I garbled several snippets into a costume of being one "memory." Apparently I passed the test as their was applause afterward. Also tomatoes. But it got me thinking about a few of my memories (this is where some lovely chimes should be heard as an interlude)Every Christmas eve as a child all my siblings would sleep in my room. We would giggle and not get any sleep and tell stories of the Cinnamon bears that lived in a magical candy land. Clinton without exception would sneak upstairs to take a peek at the loot from Santa which was never wrapped and report on the appearance of the gift spread. I always chastised him party wanting the surprise but partly thrilled that he had done the deed and I didn't have to. I don't believe there was a Christmas that passed where Clinton did not know each and every one of his gifts as he couldn't stand the suspense and my parents are very unoriginal present hiders....(tip for the kids at home...under the bed and in their closet...) Every Christmas eve we read Luke 2 as a family and acted out the holy story. With a few variations it would proceed with necessary elements like...the narrator screaming, a crying angel (not from a sacred cathartic moment), no Mary (she was Mary last year and wanted a new part), the sheep hitting the baby Jesus.
Each December 6th my mother carried the German tradition of putting out your shoes for Saint Nicholas to fill with candy and goodies or coal. The benevolent woman that she is, no one ever got coal. One thing I love about my Mom is that she believes in good chocolate, even for kids so no Palmers crap for us, the good, creamy, full-bodied stuff that saves souls.
Gift-giving was always a highlight. We had fun sharing what gifts we had chosen for one another. I remember Feeling so proud to give my Dad a fishing fanny pack since his had worn out. I never knew what to give to my mom. She regifted soaps and lotions (but was always discreet about it.) I find myelf doing the same these days. Most of the excitement came from knowing the dollars from babysitting racked up for months had been spent on something my brother or sister would love for sure. We had a ward party all decorated like Bethlehem with shops and bartering. We travelled the "markets" and used our clay chips and coins to buy flatbread, olives and figs. I can smell the unleavened bread. The energy in the air felt like a warm summer evening on a day the ages had prophecied of.
Our first Christmas together was one of hope. Just the two of us and a little heartbeat we would hear just a few days later. We were full of wonder and excitement already eagerly making plans about bringing our baby home to Alaska with our parents. Our love was creating a life. Eli was so excited Christmas morning, just like a little kid. I loved how happy it made him to give things to me that would make me happy. Maybe the Lord withheld all truths of what would come to pass with her Godly son so that she could enjoy the little moments, not drowning in the sorrows of loss. So it was with my little son.
Spending Christmas's with Eli's family was a delightful addition. The taste of buttercream frosting and soft sugar cookies lingers as we load into the delivery van that used to belong to Uncle Dave, These folks know carols I have never heard of. They ALL know them, in parts, too. Emily and Eli were able to teach me "Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat, please to put a penny in the old man's hat." I believe that's the only one I was able to master. As we tumbled out of the van to drop off a plate at the Statt's my heart warmed to see the look of delight on these people who love my other family so much. Matching pajamas for all of the kids. Like purple and green grapes Kelsey, Zach, Eli and I formed a pathetic body "X-mas" for a photo op. Someone should have warned me, the Christmas eve program was not your ordinary reading. It is talent show galore. I love how how happy Mom Milliman gets to tell that sweet story with such beautiful talented mediums, her family that she loves. I am touched that whatever it is I am included whole-heartedly as an official family member that might as well have been around since my first cry.
The 1st presidency Christmas devotional always brings me joy and a desire to put our Savior foremost in the celebration. I remember the simple and beautiful stories the then, Elder Monson shared about helping the widows and the children. Elder Packer's war experiences make me consider simplicity in the celebration and that we are alike. How beautiful and inspiring to be in tune with the needs of others and to act on impressions of helping others. Mr. Krueger's Christmas. Now that I am a mother the wonder of watching my own children anticipate the special day fills me with awe. As I have a mind like a trap when it comes to song lyrics (my mind traps them and never lets them out) I tend to recycle Christmas songs as lullabies to my precious baby buntings. One Christmas I held little Moses in my arms and sang him the carols of old. His innocent eyes batted as he drifted off to sleep. How Mary must have felt with the Christ child in her trust. When Carolina was about two I recall the stars in her eyes when we finally placed the lights on the tree and dimmed the lights. The illumination was too much for her! She was translated immediately. So many saints have reached out to our children and brought an extra dose of wonder and excitement to their Christmas celebration. How rejuvenating it is to witness the miracle through their eyes and purifying to see others extend their love to my most precious jewels. Throughout much of tonight's program I enjoyed Rainbow's sweet presence. She has a cold today and the poor dear has congestion which causes her to spit up which causes her to cry and feel ever so sad. Her little red eyes are so sad, too. A few kind women around me took turns holding her when she fussed or made sure I had a chance to eat. Noticing that they sought out my needs touches me but after awhile I sensed poor little Rainbow wanted only her Momma whom she trusts infinitely. She looked so relieved to get me back. I enjoyed having just her with me. In fact, I missed the girl. At times having to shuffle the necessary shuffling of picking up peed panties, washing the dishes, picking up toys, trying to make time to play superheros but never seeming to fit them in (and I am just a pathetic fighter. I am a lover. Moses must dictate to me sentence by sentence what my guy should be doing and saying.) the attachment necessary for mother and infant is trying and tiring and one more rhythmic cry just doesn't seem cute. But for this extended time I had the freedom to just prop her in my arms facing me and to share with her my time. I smiled and smiled at her and she smiled and smiled right back. When she smiles the left side of her lip curls a little more than her right. She loved the engagement we shared so dearly. Her whole developing face twitched and lit up in so many subtle inquisitive expressions. While the congregation prayed I continued to hold my gaze with her. She's closer to heaven than any of us. She gave me an exaggerated smile and a single coo that was darn near close to a laugh. I think to make it an official laugh, it must be two consecutive smile coos. Its coming soon.


CLAMES said...

I loved this, Shannon. Isn't this a wonderful time of year?!
I hope Carolina is ready for some hardcore partying. ;)

Jacob and Katie said...

Your post make me so nostalgic! It made me look so forward to having future holidays with Jacob and our own families. I miss Uncle Newels Christmas parties the most. And your comment about the UHal was hilarious lol. I think I was gushing more at the parade then the kids were I just love balloons and the whole holiday season!