I come from a small family. For all intents and purposes I grew up an only child, my brother coming along when I was 15. My mother is an only child. My father and his parents have died. If I’m being honest, the dogs outnumber the humans when my family gets together. As the mother of an only child our home is not typically filled with lots of children. Ours is not the house where the neighborhood comes to play. This is not to paint an unflattering picture of our home or my upbringing. Both were and are warm, filled with love, stable. This is, however, to illustrate how I have become more of a solitary person. I’m content to be alone with a book, empty rooms, my thoughts. This Christmas I stepped outside of that comfort zone to host my husband’s entire family. His parents, uncle, brother and his wife and daughter, and sister and her two daughters. People I have known for a long time now, people I dearly love and consider of course to be my family as well. And while my mother-in-law makes sheltering and feeding and gifting this many people look easy on the years we travel to her home in Spokane, I can assure you it is not. The hubby, daughter, and I began preparing for everyone’s visit months in advance. Menus were planned, beds were bought, rooms re-purposed, garland hung, gifts ordered, dogs groomed, nothing left undone. And wouldn’t you know it, LIFE, decided to intervene. I will not get into the specifics of the curve ball we were thrown, just suffice it to say it was serious enough to turn letters to Santa into pleas for a family member’s recovery and jolt this serial organizer right out of her rigid ways. It simply didn’t go as planned. I had to work through much of the visit, leaving every afternoon and returning only after everyone was in bed. Everyone but 2. My sisters-in-law. They would wait up, physically and emotionally exhausted, to fill me in on the day, share a laugh, enjoy a nightcap. They cooked and cleaned and baked and handled things and let dogs out and soothed hurt teenage feelings and changed people’s itineraries and set up appointments that became necessary and still had gifts under the tree for all of us, thoughtful, and in some cases, homemade, personal gifts. They helped me immeasurably. I’ve known one of them half my life. Met my husband’s sister in college, a next door neighbor and fellow sorority President. Months may pass between our conversations but we always pick right up and care deeply for one another and each other’s children. The other is my husband’s brother’s wife. Young, quick to laugh, generous, and patient mother to a special needs little girl. I’m not as patient as these women, I’m not as skilled in the kitchen as these women, I’m not as understanding as these women. I want them both to know how much I appreciate them, cherish them, and love them for helping me and our entire family through a difficult time. For making the best of every situation. For standing in my kitchen in the middle of the night, eating Rice Krispies treats and sipping Drambuie, making my house feel full of life and family. For catching that damn curve ball that was thrown this Christmas.
All of our angels in their Christmas Eve pj’s – Bonnie’s daughters, Courtney and Syrah on either side of Lucy and Tiffany’s daughter Jordyn in front