Christmas came in 2009 exactly six days early. Our children are no longer spread around the world, but Maryland to Arizona continues to make for complexity in scheduling a day when all five can come to Indiana. This year it came down to Dec. 19th. This schedule meant we had in our home five children, four of the world's best daughter-in-laws, one smarter-than-he-looks son-in-law, nine (as of now) grandchildren, my sister and her husband, one of my favorite nieces and her husband and two sons, and two exchange students living with my sister -- "Rosie" and "Jessie." A family gathering of some 29 in all crowded into our two-bedroom house. This is Christmas.
Our daughter Susan, being smart like her daddy, arranged for the grown-ups to stay at a hotel. Grandma and Granddad (mostly Grandma) kept five of the grandchildren Friday night. This is Christmas.
On "Christmas Day" (aka Saturday) we all packed around the tree and opened presents. Somehow Susan made sure every child got two gifts to unwrap. Hopefully for the most part these were things unexpected and not known they were wanted until received (the ones I got were!). This is Christmas.
As is my wont, I mostly just sat back and enjoyed the fact all our children wanted to be home. Am not entirely sure all five were all together at any one time as Benjamin and Lisa came late, having driven 26 hours in that infamous snowstorm,. But, when they were here it was without pain in their lives, without conflict amongst them, and glad God put them together in this particular family. This is Christmas.
I explained to the two exchange students that it wasn't about the day or the gifts; but when family is together and happy, this is Christmas.
Christmas Eve Kay and I attended the services at Christ Community Church. As previously written, if Christians lament taking Christ out of "the holidays," they might start by putting Him back in Christmas Eve. The services were a bit "modern" for this old man, but overall it was very nice.
Somehow all this meant that Christmas morning (the real one) left Kay and I home alone for the first time in 44 years. The first few years of our lives together demanded we run off to Grandma and Grandpa's and/or Grandmother and Granddaddy's house for Christmas. With the passing to time and people, we went through the golden years of having our own children in our own home and our own memories.
Then, sometime way too soon, we became the grandparents who must be visited by our children's young families. With the blessing of conflicting timetables, this Christmas morning each of our five are learning that with the passage of time and people they need to establish their own homes and memories -- and their learning this is what I'd want for any Christmas. To allow a child to grow up and make their own way is the only real gift a parent can give. This is Christmas.
I gave Kay a gift the "real" Christmas morning (I am old and overly traditional). Hopefully it was something unexpected and not known it was wanted until received. For a little while our home was blessed with the un-modern gift of a certain Susan Boyle of the United Kingdom. And this is Christmas.
David L. Lewis is an observer of and sometimes commentator on life who may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.