The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…weeks ago. The fear this year is that for the first time in 30 years, I won’t be there.
Christmas is always a BIG “whoop-de-do” for my family. Each year after Thanksgiving, we clean the house top to bottom. Then we drape red ribbons from wall to wall and hang garland and wreaths. Oh, and then there is the eight-foot tall Christmas tree that we wrestle with each year to drag out of the attic and decorate with lights, bows, and other ornaments that have been collected over the years. It has always been a joy to work with Dad in the yard neatly placing our figurines and draping the Christmas lights. All of those activities have brought me joy throughout the years. But this year, something was different.
We still decorated the house and tree and sang our Christmas carols. We watched old Christmas reels that Daddy taped and giggled at the sight of our younger selves dragging Mom out of bed as early as 4 o’clock Christmas morning so that she and Dad could see what Santa brought; and we, of course, could open our gifts. Then we watch the newer VHS tapes and DVD’s of my nieces and nephews doing some of the very same things.
They spend every Christmas Eve at my parents’ too. And just like we did, they drag Grandma and Granddad of out bed and rip open their presents with so much joy and excitement. But for me this time, those activities did not bring much pleasure. As I moved from task to task, there was a small voice ringing in the back of my mind. It was the voice of my husband saying that this year he wants to spend Christmas with his parents.
His Parents! What could he be thinking? We always spend Christmas at my parents’ house. That was a childhood promise. Each brother and sister vowed that we would, no matter what, always be home for Christmas. I cannot break a vow. And we cannot be having this conversation. Not now. We covered this before we married two and a half years ago. We would spend EVERY Christmas with my family. He agreed! And now he wants to go to his parents. They live over 700 miles away from my family. There are 364 other days in the year. He can pick any or all of them, but not December 25th.
“You are being selfish,” the voice quickly said. Now I am still trying to figure out if that was my husband’s voice or mine. But still, I thought to myself: “Me, selfish? That cannot be.” But maybe it is so.
For two years, despite his desire to be with his family, my husband has, without grumping or complaining, loaded the car and celebrated Christmas “Johnson Style” — just to make me happy. Now along with a voice in my head, I see pictures too. I see him sitting in my father’s recliner talking to his mom via the phone and forcing a smile on his face. While we all laugh and chatter at the dinner table, I see him gazing off at times with a blank stare. He misses his family, too!
“Okay, Okay,” I tell myself. If he can try something new for me, I can do the same for him. So this year, there won’t be a “Johnson Style” Christmas. I am going to spend the most important holiday of the year with the Barnes. “But, a block party Christmas– Bah! Humbug!” my inner voice says. No fine china, linen table clothes and 20-minute prayer from Granddaddy thanking God for keeping us through the year and adding new links to our family chain. Well, I can do without the 20-minute prayer. But no staying up all night watching “It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 35th Street and A Charlie Brown Christmas.” No shaking of the Christmas boxes to guess what’s inside.
Well, maybe just once I can try something different. But, a block party, I just don’t know. I enjoy our intimate dinner with only the family. Now, I will have to eat off paper plates, buffet style and with my in-laws’ neighbors. Well, I did vow to forsake all others for him alone. If that means giving up a Johnson Christmas, I will just have to do so. My hope this year is that through this new found experience I am about to embark upon, my husband and I will both grow into the one body that God desires for us to be.
Christmas isn’t just about traditions; it’s about family and celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I have a new family now. And I suppose that means new family traditions. Christmas isn’t a date marked on the calendar; it’s a love that’s in your heart. So this year, mom and dad, I will be home for Christmas. It just won’t be at the brick and mortar structure daddy erected over a dozen years ago. It will be the home in my heart that the two of you spent decades building through your teachings of love, family and Christ. I know that you both will be proud to know that this year I will live the true meaning of Christmas in a house not of stone, but of spirit that has mirrors that reflects the true image of Christ.