~~Celia Thaxter,The Nestling Swallows.
It is almost midnight and the house is quiet. Michael went to bed hours ago and left Boo-Boo the cat with his chair. Taz, my Cocker Spaniel, is sleeping on my feet while Lex, my Lab, claims the rug near the Christmas Tree. Even Mr. Jitters, the rabbit, is sleeping silent in his cage.
This is an exquisitely beautiful moment to me. I adore this quiet peace in the dark of night when all the noise of daily living settles hushed for a few hours. I can feel my heartbeat start to slow and my stress-level begin to ease. I am able to breathe in the calmer essence of true life in this time of whispered darkness. I am uncommonly whole and content as I think about Christmas and my family.
I am looking forward to Christmas Day after a month of chaos and fatigue. My children, their spouses, and all four grandchildren will be here. My siblings plan to come if possible. I’m the eldest of four and it is seldom that we all get together. We’ve each had our own spouses, children and work schedules to contend with for years now. I hope both my brothers are able to come – if so, that makes four, and it will be our first Christmas spent together in many, long years.
Time has a way of slipping past you while you’re busy with the act of living. I love my sister and brothers dearly, but have not been as good about showing it in recent years. Sadly, the lack of attentiveness toward them is due to my flighty nature and isolationist behavior. It isn’t due to lack of love or caring for them. I just tend to get lost in me and whatever mission or project has captured my passion – the next thing I know, five years, ten years have passed. It’s an odd quirk of my personality that I recognize without knowing how to mend. (I tend to think it’s just some strange artist thing!) All the while, time moves without mercy and we all grow older and more distant from one another.
I can still remember the first time I looked into the crib at my brother, David. In memory he is the little kid arguing with me and my sister over which cartoons to watch each day at four o’clock; and then the pre-teen who went with us on vacation to Florida; and then the teenager outrunning the cops in his newest hot-rod down the back dirt roads of town – laughing and bragging, and doing it just because he could! He suffered through endless hours of “playing school” with me and my sister before he ever started kindergarten (but, he has always been extremely smart). He was a sweet, smart, good-natured kid that was kind to everyone around him. I can still see him riding around town with my aunt and uncle, especially during his fluffy–80’s hairdo period, laughing and joking. He is now a grown man in his 30’s, with three grown children, a wonderful wife, and his own trucking company. I am very proud of him, of how intelligent he is, and his determination to make his way in the world on his terms.
My baby brother, Chris, is even younger. I can still see him sleeping in his crib, covered in chicken-pox spots. Such a sweet baby, so sick, and yet dealing with the pain and “feel bad” without very much screaming and crying. I held him, changed diapers, played “little mama” to him for a time before I got married. I remember him as that cute baby, as the little bright-eyed child who wanted to hold my babies when they were born, as the teenager who hand-made me a writing desk, and as an older teen and young adult going through his rough patches like the rest of us. He’s had more than his share of hard times, and, like his oldest sister, is usually his own worst enemy. He’s doing great in his life now though – he has a wonderful fiance that truly loves him and a wonderful son. Chris has been strong and courageous, doggedly fighting his way through the dark days into the sunny ones. I’m very proud of who he’s become and all that he’s accomplished.
My sister, Mandi, is definitely coming for Christmas dinner. We’re close in age and have a unique bond that can only be called sisterhood. We have fought and hated each other with a passion through the years, but that was just the negative, childish side of the great love we feel for one another. We are as opposite as night and day, but exist together as the moon and sun. We would be lost if the other one wasn’t there. I have been given a rare gift in my sister that I thank God for often – she is the one person on earth who I trust with all my heart. I know that she has always and will always be a person who will love me and help me no matter what happens. I hope she knows she has that same gift in me. We will always be those little girls playing dress up and wearing high-heels to school without permission, the person on the other end of the phone when one of us needs to celebrate or cry, the one holding onto the rope that binds us during terrible fears and periods of pain…never letting go.
It’s amazing how much your vision changes in 30 years. I used to get so fed-up with being the “oldest” when we were growing up. It always meant looking after the “younger ones” and taking care of them while mom and dad were at work or busy. And the answer to “why” was always because you’re the oldest – I thought it was a pretty unfair punishment back in the day! Yet, here we are, thirty years later and the “younger ones” are all grown up. I sit here in the quiet darkness, sift through the memories from all those years ago, consider the good people my siblings have turned out to be and I realize how blessed I have been. I am grateful now for those times: the fun and the fights, the aggravation and the sharing, the craziness and the sanity. I am very proud of the people they’ve all become and I feel privileged to have watched it and been a part of it from the beginning. Merry Christmas Mandi, David, and Chris. I love you!