As much as I tried to get our gifts made with peace and plenty of time, Andy and I landed in a flurry of glue, thread, paint and postage stamps on December 23 — the day our company arrived. He wanted to go skiing as a family, I wanted to get packages mailed, sheets changed, groceries purchased. We argued about it, which deflated both of our ambitions. We argue infrequently so trivial, snappy conversations lead to us digging into what we are really talking about. And, what we were really talking about? The same exact thing. BEING together after a stressful two months where we tag-teamed every little life thing and made eye contact for seven seconds before falling asleep at night. Whether it was assembling gifts or hitting the ski hill or sitting knee to knee and staring at each other, it didn’t matter. The stormy hour in our kitchen that morning allowed that tight ball of tension and gogogogoooooing to unravel quickly and we were left as the team we trust and appreciate. Imperfect and holding hands. It was uncomfortable, important and a great beginning to our two week staycation.
Since then, I have been happily unplugged from my computer. Family filled our home and we spent days imbibing in the goodness that happens when family fills our home. Our week was loud and active, chill and cozy. I woke at 3:45 this morning to pull espresso shots for my mom and dad, to drive them to the airport, to say goodbye and thanks and love you. It was good and this is good. I appreciate both: the fueling chaos of every bed full (and then some), every counter covered, every room pulsing and the calm settling of sweeping floors, deflating the air mattress and brushing teeth alone.
Ruby desired a whole glittery watermelon to share with her family on Christmas morning. Santa had to special order the watermelon from Mexico and when he phoned the market to make the request the kind produce manager said, “we can make this happen but I gotta tell ya: it’s gonna taste like shit.” His best painting elf did a magical job blinging out the orb. Ruby was beside herself with joy.
Margot wrote several letters to Santa asking for a baby unicorn and a tiny rainbow pillow. His sewing elf got a mere 2 1/2 hours of sleep on Christmas eve stitching up a unicorn and rainbow and stringing them together to suspend over her bed. She drank espresso like a boss.
Christmas morning began at 5 when Margot awoke in bed next to her grandma and saw a sleigh and reindeer zoom past the window like a “burst of light.” She leapt out of bed and raced to the living room. “He’s been here! He just left because I just saw him fly away! And the stockings are round instead of flat!”
We opened gifts and ate in the morning. We welcomed friends, sledded on solid ice and sipped champagne in the afternoon. The girls visited their new sleeping bags throughout the day.
I asked Margot and Ruby, independently of each other, what they wanted to gift their dad. And they both wanted to get him warm things for his legs, which pierced my heart with sweetness. Andy leaves the house in the morning before they wake and he gets home at 5:30. The kids race to him and want to wrap their arms around his legs and, every evening, he says not yet! I love you. Let me take a quick shower and change my clothes first. Andy is an electrician and spends his days in attics, crawl spaces and construction sites surrounded by insulation, mold, dust etc. so leg hugs aren’t safe. Ruby chose some soft fleece pants that he can change into right when he gets home. Margot chose some fleece-lined jeans and to make a blanket that will hang by the front door so that when he gets home she can wrap the blanket around his dirty jeans for a hug. She drew with fabric markers, an image of she and Andy under a rainbow and wrote daddy I love you. Together we quilted to a piece of fleece, following the lines of her drawing. It really turned out great and Andy couldn’t have loved it more.
I got Andy practical stuff: a new ski helmet, slippers. Neither were a surprise because of Ruby’s excitement to share. A few weeks back, Andy put his crusty old slippers (that were hotel freebies) on his feet. Ruby noticed the hole in the sole and said, “Daddy! Would you like me to get your new slippers for you?! I think they are in the garage!” Andy, smiling, said, “No thanks, buddy. I’ll wait until Christmas.” Margot then reminded Ruby of the surprise aspect of gifts and Ruby instantly made up a song that went like this: We have no slippers for daddy! No slippers at all! No slippers anywhere! I’ve never seen slippers! No slippers for daddy! The helmet was revealed similarly.
A few other gifts I was excited to give: earrings made from recycled guitar strings by Middle Sister Designs, my childhood dollhouse that my mom stored all these years (that my mom, mother-in-law and I had the most fun setting up until past midnight), tiny handmade food from the Fairy Food Market. We made memory card games for our daughters and nieces, as you may have seen on instagram. I will share the making details in another post.
Skiing, ice skating, book reading, game playing and eating filled the rest of our time together.
The spirit of giving and receiving can be such a beautiful circle. These days, I think it is a little bit harder to maintain the simple craft of gifting. We have so much access to so much stuff and I know the feeling of overwhelm and stretch. The act of focusing in, of using our hands when we can, of thoughtful exchange and of valuing (and modeling for my kids) the fun in giving within our means and from our hearts is what I work at. It’s a practice.
I will be back soon with a foodie post on the dinners we prepared this last week and a post about the memory card game. And, most likely a post about how my kids are suddenly skiing trees and powder (!!!!!). First, we have some (more) skiing and (more) game playing to do for these last few work-free days together.
Wishing you all hope, health and contentment in 2014 and always.
ps I am thrilled to be contributing over at eHow.com! My first three assignments: