After reading this blog at A Holy Experience, I was challenged to think about the thousand gifts our family has shared this last week. The simple moments. The highlights. The gifts that were never put under the tree or wrapped in fancy paper. The places where something deep in our hearts was united with the reason we celebrate Christmas. The glimpses of heaven.
On Sunday night Ericlee and I drove my sister, Caron, and her kids, Gio and Sophia, back to the airport in San Jose. We put them on a plane to Seattle and mourned a bit to see them go. After a glorious week together, we traced the treasured moments. These are a few they mentioned and some we've added since then:
~Acting out the Christmas story at my brother Paul's house. Meilani was so serious about her role as Mary. Giada was dressed in angel wings standing arms-spread on a kitchen stool. Paul was Joseph using a black frilly scarf as his beard. Nana Maria kept insisting we sing Christmas carols. Gio, Sophia and Papa Doug were the wise guys. Cindy and Dorina baaaa-ed like the sheep. Michelle was Mary with child. Ericlee narrated in a dramatic voice.
~A grand Christmas Carol Fiesta. Paul and Michelle hosted 25 neighbors and friends. We sang our hearts out for the elderly people at a nearby convalescent home. One woman spread out her wrinkled arms to our girls, delighted to share a Christmas song with children. Complete joy.
~Caroling followed by tamales. A food tradition of a different culture adopted by our family this year. My mom ordered tamales from a family without regular work. They blessed us with marvelous morsels as we blessed them.
~Deep belly laughs as the adults play the game Buzz Word - turning phrases upside down and inside out.
~Making pita piatta with the family. A time to join the circle, continue the passing down of recipes through the generations, through food and the act of creating something wonderful together. Raisin-cinnamon-nut goodness. Warm from the oven. Giada spreading the cinnamon. Too much. Just right.
~Knitting with my niece. Our fingers dancing, flying across needles and skeins of yarn. Had to finish the Christmas orders so we could rest. Hats, headbands, fingerless gloves in all shapes and sizes. Laughing, teaching, sharing and crying. Done.
~Giada opening her first gift of Christmas morning - a Little People nativity set. "Jeeee-sus!" she squealed at the top of her lungs. And in that moment I felt it. Christ had come!
~Watching the Nativity movie. All the cousins, sisters and grandmas piled on our big red couch, still wearing our pajamas. Meilani was delighted to sit in the midst of her family. My sister cried when she saw Mary traveling, sacrificing, heavy on that donkey. We felt the awe of the moment when the star shone down and the child burst forth.
~Rolling out ravioli dough on Christmas afternoon. Caron, Gio and Sophia arguing about the best, most-efficient way to do it. Laughing together at our humanness. The epic project. Creating a new recipe with pumpkin-ricotta filling. Savoring each bite.
~Decorating gingerbread men. The little ones leading the brigade of sprinkles and wiggly lines of frosting. An old tradition made new.
~Taking ornaments from our Christmas tree and sharing them around the table after the Christmas meal. Each ornament represented a story, a country, a people. We prayed for the people celebrating Christmas in those lands. We prayed for those in need. We prayed for the world to find the Christmas Gift.
~A brisk walk with my sister through the neighborhood. A Salted caramel mocha at Whole Foods. A chance to pause, to mourn, to celebrate these months we've lived apart and faced our separate challenges. A chance to intertwine our journeys once again.
....a Thousand Gifts.