It started there. And I hoped it didn’t end in the ellipses, but I was beginning to wonder. I knew there had to be more to Christmas than the rush and collision of meeting myself coming and going in a holiday rush that combined itself with an irritating mass of nerves and smothered out the joy of my memories. The rush and clamor wasn’t my style. I didn’t like it, and I didn’t want it to continue.
I deeply desired chestnuts roasting, cider around a bon fire, and laughter with carols and friends.
It was Christmas Eve. The day had started out with just the four of us, and Grandma, sitting around the kitchen table eating a breakfast of sausage gravy and biscuits. Grandma, dripping an occasional tear, the day wasn’t as joyful as I remembered. Just one year before, Grandma had awakened as Granddad took his final breaths, dying of heart failure on Christmas morning, in her arms, on their bed.
This year, the family was coming home.
By noon, snow was falling. Aunt Evelyn and Uncle Bob had arrived from Michigan, carrying in bags of goodies and gifts from their camper. The smell of cinnamon rolls filled the house.
By four-thirty, the rest of the family had begun arriving. Cousins, Aunts, Uncles and relatives I hadn’t seen since the year before.
The Christmas tree was lit, there were gifts scattered underneath and life was a hub of excitement. Grandma went to her room and closed the door.
I struggled through the remnants of dinner, washing dishes afterward and helping Dad clean up the kitchen while Mom found beds for everyone who would be sleeping over. Hosting a holiday this big always included a mass of confusion. Nothing new, we’d done this before.
Well after dark, the chaos became too much and I pulled on my jacket and disappeared to the barn. I didn’t want to be found. The calves in the barn offered warmth to my twelve year old body and I figured nobody would miss me much with the mass confusion in the house. My cousin was screaming at her children, my Aunts were screaming at each other, Grandma was settled in her prayer chair, wishing Granddad were there to settle them all down. I just wanted to be anywhere else.
So, I was.
The calves were curled in the corner and I joined them in the straw. My head resting against the warm brown fur of a calf only a few weeks old, I drifted off to sleep.
Shadows and light filled up the dream, Christmas carols and singing, bells ringing and I heard laughter. I remembered years before when Christmas wasn’t chaos. I remembered. I felt the arms of God surrounding me. It was well after midnight when I heard them calling my name. I don’t know how long they searched. I don’t remember what they said. I just remember that I felt the arms of God surrounding me – there with my parents holding me tight in the middle of a cold Christmas night…
Christmas warmed me…