How many shopping days left?

OMG! … is usually my general state of mind at this point.  It seems no matter how far ahead I plan, or shop, or bake or decorate I am always behind. For as long as I can remember I have been the one descending the stairs with wet hair, struggling to button or zip, while welcoming my family and friends who managed to arrive on time. With the exception of being greeted by a composed hostess, they entered my well designed and executed Christmas “Set”. The tree, the decorations, the perfectly wrapped and terribly thoughtful gifts under the tree; the scents of abundance, candle light and just the right holiday cheer.

I assume I am not alone here when describing the scene. The  cast has arrived, the set is decorated and the performance begins. Usually I am so exhausted and/or stressed out that I am numbed to a great deal of the magic I have worked so hard to create.

Every Christmas Eve since my kids were babies, our family and friends sit down before dinner and listen to my husband attempt to read a lovely little book, A Certain Small Shepard. It is a simple story about a motherless family who tries to make the most of Christmas given the cards they have been dealt. One particular Christmas Eve an unexpected miracle arrives…but instead of being the recipients, they are in-fact the gracious and most generous benefactors

For 30 years we have read the same story and for 30 years there is not a dry eye in the room. My husband always starts, but rarely makes it past the first couple of pages. Seeing his eyes well with tears and a tenderness envelop him have been some of the dearest moments associated with Christmas. The book is then passed to me, and I give it a whirl. On more than one occasion one of the girls takes over, or my father or my beloved nephew. It takes a village to get thru this small work of art. Yet every Christmas Eve we all gather around again to give it another go.

This year I have listened and heard the whispers of my family above the cacophony all around. They don’t want the exquisite set, they want the real thing. They want less and they want to give more to those who really need a hand. They want less wasted food, and more time spent enjoying the simpler food we prepare together.

There is a Certain Small Shepard coming to our house this year, and I want to be fully present. I know most days of the year that what truly matters is the unconditional love I share with family and friends. Somehow though Christmas preparations tend to cloud what I know to be true. This year I want to accept the miracle being given to all who gather; to listen to a simple story, see the aging faces of grandparents light up when surrounded by those most cherished, and realize memories made that are in fact the gifts that we will cherish in years to come.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a Good Night…filled with the matters that truly matter to you.