Generally, I like change. I like when surprises sneak up on me. I like when things are new, unexpected, adventurous, unknown. You can’t move to Mexico and expect things to look even remotely familiar. But Christmas is different. Christmas is about tradition, about recreating memories, about things staying the same. And for that – well this Christmas I was just a bit sad. This is the first Christmas that we have not been with our own daughters. Flights were too expensive; job vacations were too short. This year it didn’t make sense. Still, reason and common sense gave way to self-pity. After all, this was the year I thought we would finally build a proper family Christmas. Among our 3 loads of belonging, we had moved our big old Christmas tree, our stockings, our ornaments. Snowmen and stockings and candles and the tiny Nativity scene. My roasting pan and that old gravy bowl. My tablecloths and napkins and those cute little snowball place card holders. Everything I needed to finally make a family Christmas dinner in this new home. Familiar. Safe. Traditional.
So when we agreed to postpone our family time until spring this year, I admit I was disappointed. I briefly… really briefly…. considered flying north to them but I knew that was not right either. We were needed here and as December unfolded, I began to see the plan emerge exactly as it was meant to. Since the last weekend of October, we have enjoyed opening our guest rooms to three little girls who need a home and as Christmas approached, I realized our tree and our decorations and even our stockings still had work to do.
Of course, as often happens here, the road became bumpier and more uncertain the closer we got to Christmas weekend. It looked like we would have the girls for the weekend. We shopped – for toys and groceries and surprises. We hung our own daughters’ stockings in preparation for Santa’s arrival. Nope. They’re going with mom. Tears from everyone. Nope. Mom changed her mind – please come get them. More tears. More pain. So much pain. But finally, it was Christmas morning and I looked around our breakfast table and rejoiced that our chairs were full and our table was overflowing with Christmas treats and Christmas love. Unlike my own daughters, these children hadn’t even considered looking under the tree or looking in the stockings. I had however found a letter under the tree on Christmas Eve written by 10-year-old Marely. “Santa, they say you’re not real but I still believe in you. If you are real, please tell me the truth -Yes or No”. Over breakfast, when Grant said, “I wonder if Santa came, she actually looked pretty angry. “No. There’s no Santa”. “Well, let’s look”. They ran to the stockings and I was elated with the pure joy on Marely’s face “He came, Santa came”. I don’t know what she really believes, but for this year at least, she got to experience being a child with a stocking full of treats and gifts under a tree.
Christmas morning surprise!
That evening, we had a traditional Canadian Christmas meal in our tiny garden. On Friday I thought there would be just 5 of us, but by Monday night our family had grown to 13. Canadians, Americans, Mexicans of all ages. Spanish and English jumbled together. So different than our normal tradition. So exactly the same.
As always, the happy stories are mushed together with the painful stories. The joy of a Christmas weekend is paired with some truly difficult moments and I have new respect for all foster moms and adoptive moms who love children who come from difficult places. The same little hands and arms that gave generous hugs of joy, left painful bruises and scratches when they realized mom wasn’t coming for them. Gifts that were purchased with love were stolen and hidden away. So much laughter mixed with so many tears. But that is the whole point of the Christmas story. A baby coming into a broken world. Love wrapped in flesh. A father to the fatherless and the orphans. Peace that passes understanding. Not the Christmas I expected but oh the Christmas I will cherish. Joy to the World!