The Christmas That Was

School let out on Friday. The Christmas Spirit, if one believes in such things, was very much eluding me. I was ready for the fun to begin.

We started by visiting my lovely friend’s father. We brought him a present and sat and talked with him. He had just lost his wife. I was filled with sadness for him and guilt that I hadn’t been visiting. He is selling his home and seeing everything boxed up was a lot to take in. My son played the guitar and sang Jingle Bells for him by the Christmas tree. He smiled at my boy and a tear ran down his cheek. It was a moment I won’t soon forget.

That night I made out my To-Do list. Everything was planned out. I was going to pull it off another year. I went to bed patting myself on the back and hoping to wake up filled with Christmas cheer.

All Saturday we busied ourselves as we counted down the minutes until our slumber party with my dear childhood friend and her kids. We all were very excited to kick off the holiday right.

“Mommy, my tummy hurts,” my boy says on the drive.

“Really?” I say. He moans and shifts in his seat. Shit! No! Maybe it’s nothing.

“I think it’s just that stupid Taco Bell,” he says.

I agree. We rarely eat fast food and I am sure that is it. By the time we reach her house he says he is fine. He heads for the bathroom and then off to play. All is well. Let the party begin!

Sitting and chatting with my friend I realize how much I have missed her. We have known each other since she was born and I was 2. We have such a connection and I always feel loved and at home with her.

“Mommy,” her boy yells from his room. “Come get me out of my room!”

“What?” we both yell.

“I threw up,” my boy musters from the bathroom. NO!!!

We dash up the stairs to find the mess. Ugh. She rescues her boy and I comfort mine. She cleans the carpet and I clean him up.

“We have to go,” I say.

“It’s OK,” my friend says. “We are already exposed, don’t leave yet.”

So we set the kids up with a movie and my boy up with a bucket. At the end of the film, and many bucket empties later, it was clearly time to get my sick babe home. My daughter lost it.

“I don’t want to go!!!” she screamed.

“You did this on purpose!” she yells at her brother followed by trying to punch me.

Seriously girl? You are going to choose now to totally lose your shit. OK. Go for it.

She yelled for about 5 minutes and then switched to “I am sorry” and “I am a terrible sister.”

We make it home. I settle my boy in his bed and calm my daughter.

“We love you. Everyone loses it sometimes,” I say while rubbing her head. “I didn’t want to leave either.”

Just try not to act like a complete jerk next time, OK?

We were up all night. The entire next day was a whirlwind of laundry, reading books and trying to get my boy to rest. I wrapped some presents, played dolls and even managed a shower. Go me!

The next day awakes bright and cheery. My boy is finally up and is ready to conquer the world. It is time for our annual Santa picture. Kids are happy to see the big guy, but my heart silently drops when they boy tells Santa he wants his dog for Christmas. Sigh.

We have plans for another Christmas slumber party with our best friends. I tell her we MAY be contagious. We MAY bring germs to your house. It’s OK to cancel.

“Let’s do this!” she says.

Cleary I have friends that are so wonderful that they would risk getting sick to see me. Yep. That’s love.

So we trek over filled with happiness and glee. After a yummy dinner we head out to look at Christmas lights. We walk to this court filled with people and about a million lights. It’s beautiful. We get home, settle the kids with a Christmas movie and we ladies stay up and have a few drinks. Kids fall asleep and all seems right with the world.

Then…I hear rustling in the bedroom. I go look and my girl has thrown up all over herself. It’s everywhere. At this point I have had some drinks so driving home isn’t even an option. I remove her from the kids room, clean her up best I can in my current condition and get her to the living room. Set her up and prepare for the long night of caring for her.

About an hour later it hits me and I almost scream “NOOO!!!!!!”

The rest of the night is a blur. Bathroom trips: 100. Sleep: 0.

I know it’s morning when the other kids come into the room and want to open presents.

Oh, yeah. It’s Christmas Eve.

My dear daughter and I could not open our eyes or sit up. I listen to people open gifts and mutter, “what is it?” every once in awhile. My girl and I finally manage to open our gifts lying down. They are wonderful and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and love.

Our friends load our car with all our things and I somehow make it home. I don’t remember the drive at all.

It’s Christmas Eve and we have so many traditions and plans. I collapse on the bed and think…I’ll just rest a minute. I’m sure I will feel better soon.

The rest of the day is a complete blur. I have a memory of my husband telling me he and the boy were going shopping and out to eat. I drank water a few times. Other than that…I slept. If I lifted my head it felt as if it might explode. Literally. So I just slept. My little girl was snuggled right next to me just as miserable as me.

We both slept ALL of Christmas Eve. All our plans were gone. No split pea soup, no homemade bread, no looking at lights. The kids opened their Christmas pajamas on my bed. I could not read “The Night Before Christmas” or snuggle them in and see that beautiful look of anticipation on their faces. Nope. I just slept.

At some point my husband came up and got me. It was time to do the parental Santa job and I DID NOT want to miss that. So I mustered all the strength I had, went downstairs, filled the stockings and then collapsed. I don’t even remember making it back upstairs.

Christmas morning came and when I opened my eyes, I prayed that I could move. The kids were up and giggling in their rooms.

“You can do it,” my husband says. “Let’s go.”

So I do. I drag myself out of bed and downstairs. I lay on the couch as they open their gifts vaguely aware that we are not taking pictures. I try to be merry and muster a smile. My mom and brother are usually with us. My mom had the same bug and was home in her own bed. I felt their absence so strongly that it was hard to be happy. But there is nothing like your kids faces on Christmas morning. Seeing the magic and joy all over them…I melted.

This was not the Christmas it was supposed to be. Not even close. But it WAS the Christmas it was meant to be.

I can’t help but feel that God is getting exasperated with me. He has lost his patience with me not learning the lessons that he keeps trying to teach me. He has run out of subtly and decided that he needed to pull out the big guns. Sickness at Christmas is quite a message.

You are not in control.

Sure hope he doesn’t have to get any more drastic. I am trying to get it. I am. I want to let go of expectations. I want to except that I am not in command.

It is just so hard.

My best friend got me the most beautiful necklace for Christmas. I can’t help but feel that it is no coincidence. The message is simple and clear:

All I can be is me.


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