I stood in the packed church service on Christmas Eve, telling myself over and over, "I'm not gonna cry when they light the candles and we sing Silent Night, I'm just not gonna do it this year", and I puffed myself up, swallowed deep and tried to be brave. Then the thought overwhelmed me that this could be MY first Christmas, the one when I changed my standing in my own mind, it could be the first one when I stopped seeing myself as an unwanted daughter and instead see myself as a much loved wife, mother, friend, in essence, just me. Instead of dwelling on what wasn't, or on being a small part of someone else's Christmas, I should focus on what is, what's right in front of me which isn't second best anyway, it truly is incredible, all the gifts our family has. It's my turn to create a Christmas experience not only for my kids, but for myself as well, it's about time I had my own Christmas.
Sure enough, I did it, not by "white-knuckling" the whole service, but instead really singing with intention and joy, holding Allie in my arms, helping her with the glowing white candle, hearing the harmony and notes of one of my most favorite songs, and feeling the fullness of sound that comes from having so many bodies in such a small space.
When I awoke on Christmas morning I saw the sunrise above, taking that picture from our front steps just before presents. It had rained on Christmas Eve while we were up late still wrapping, but it stopped through the night, and in the morning the sun pushed back the clouds making way for a beautiful sunshiny day. It was filled with the usual excitement, gifts, piles of wrapping paper, meals, more presents, more food, family and the late night dishes that are left behind.
Exhasuted at the end of it all, I went upstairs to our room and Kevin said, "Honey, come here" and he motioned for me to sit on the bed beside him. "We need to talk". Uh oh, I thought, and felt my face go flush, surely I said or did something that was embarassing to him or me or someone else and didn't know it.
"What'd I do?" I asked.
"That was the BEST Christmas ever" he said, "thank you so much for making it so wonderful". And I felt the tears wanting to come out, the ones I had pushed back, and the lump rising up in my throat and I just put my head down on his arm and said, "Thank you...thank you... you don't know how much that means".
As I lay in bed trying to fall asleep replaying the activities of the day, I kept going back to that sunrise and that hard line of black clouds being pushed back by the sun. And then I felt it all over, my skin tingling, that I had talked to God with that picture and he reminded me once again that a new day always comes, that darkness gives way to light, that hope will dry every tear, and that if we are true to ourselves, then we are exactly where we are supposed to be.