There is this angel. She comes out of the dusty box marked "X-MAS" always wrapped carefully in the bubble wrap she arrived in on my first Christmas. I was 6 days old. Her hair is molded blond, and her angel cloak red, similar to St Nick's. She has a knob that twists at the bottom, with a music box that plays a very twangy "Silent Night." There is a picture somewhere that showed a new born baby Della under a sparse tree with this angel sitting on the mantel. It was our first family Christmas and this angel was gifted to me as a symbol of all the Christmases to come. She appears each year with her sweet smile and her familiarity.
I love Christmas. I love the smells and the ribbons and the sparkle. I love decorating when the days are grey and cold. I love making batches and batches of cookies in the shapes of stars and snowmen. I love the face of my child on Christmas morning, disheveled hair and crooked pajamas, with his awe and excitement.
The excitement of the holidays inspires me. The anticipation of what is to come. I can make lists, wrap everything beautifully, play the perfect music and still, each Christmas becomes exactly what it's supposed to be. Always perfect, but almost never according to plan.
In my years of first being a kid, then a young women on my own, a wife, and now a mother, the word “tradition” has been used loosely. Families change, parents divorce, kids grow up and marry into other families, and then they have kids of their own. The word "tradition" becomes a time to remember the old, and celebrate the new.
This year we will spend Christmas Eve with my husband's large family, playing games, eating too much, and drinking egg nog. Santa will arrive at some point in the night as he always does, and then, sitting in the living room, he will call out the names of the "good" children. He always calls a few adults to sit on his lap as well, everyone exploding in laughter as if this has never happened before. The kid's faces, as Santa sits among them handing out presents and talking directly to them, is inspiring. It always makes me cry. These kids are hopped up on 14 kinds of cookies and the fact that finally the day has come, and here, before them, is Santa. It is overwhelming with emotion.
Late in the evening we will return home and kiss our son good night wishing him dreams of sugar plums. We will add the finishing touches to the tree, the stockings and wrap the last of the gifts and then fall into slumber ourselves, exhausted from the anticipation. I will awake first, as if I was six years old. I will turn on the Christmas lights and wait. It will be quiet and I will sit with butterflies in my stomach too excited to contain myself. "When will they wake up?" I look at the clock and it turns 7:00 a.m. No one is awake and I clang the pots and pans making breakfast hoping they will hear.
Finally they arise, sleep in their eyes but smiles on their faces, and we have our Christmas morning. Eating candy canes for breakfast with a side of toast and throwing wrapping paper into piles in the middle of the room. When the gift part is over, we sit, looking at our loot and at each other. It is calm; messy, but calm. The day is ours to enjoy; the magic lasts all day. There are extra hugs, and sweet kisses and more family later in the afternoon.
This is what I anticipate will happen this year. But who knows. Every year is different. The only constant is that my angel, tired from her years in old bubble wrap, will appear this year as we decorate, and I will tell her story as I always do. My husband will smile, my son will roll his eyes, and I will start to feel the inspiration of Christmas once again.