The week leading into Christmas was a tough one at work and at home. The weekend before Christmas we had a very heavy snow storm and lost power for three days. With an electric water pump, that means we had no water and minimal heat. Winter in Maine also means it was dark by 4:30 PM. We got our power back after three days and the only lasting damage was that all our tropical fish died.
Teaching was almost as much of a challenge as I had to lead a class of 20 middle schoolers all of whom had severe cases of Christmasitis. But finally, Christmas vacation began on December 22, which happened to also be my 61st birthday. Although I was tired, things took an instant turn around. Our 21 year old daughter, Rose., has been home all semester as she did her intership for her nursing degree. Our 28 year old, Naomi, however, came in from New York for my birthday, and stayed through the 26th. Let the celebrating begin! The next evening, Naomi's boyfriend, Mike, and his 12 year old son, Michael-Aidan arrived as well. And through the wonder of facetime, our oldest girl, Jo, and her husband were around a lot too, even while they were still in Texas.
Of course, the best part of Christmas is the food, and what food we have. I am married to the best cook in the world, after all. My birthday dinner of Jamaocan jerk chicken was perfect. The meatballs and finger foods we had on Christmas Eve were beyond belief. The traditional French-Canadian pork pie was better than ever. The lasagna dinner before the New York contingent left on the 26th was out of this world.
But we all know the best part of Christmas is the family time. Laughter is the language of our household, and this Christmas was no different. We played games for hours, which really helped Michael-Aidan open up in a household full of adults. He's a very nice, respectful young man, and I couldn'y help to think how the 7th grade girls I teach would be enamored by his brown eyes and dimples. I remember when I was a young adult and we'd go to my dad's for Christmas. Often, my other brothers would converge on Pa's suburban home at the same time. Mt dad would often say how much he enjoyed listening to us having fun together. When I was tired of Pictionary or Uno, I'd retire to the living room, and feel the same joy of listening to my kids playing games and working on Naomi's 3-D Harry Potter themed puzzles.
Obviously the best part of Christmas is the beautiful Christmas Eve candle light service. This year the pastor did a multi-media reading of the Christmas account from Luke. I was asked to read the narrator's part, and Sue read Elizabeth's part. Of course, there were other congregation members playing Zecharias, Joseph, Mary, the angel and others. Meanwhile, a slide show was projected that parrelled the reading, and traditional Christmas hymns were interspersed throughout the evening. The service ended with a candle lit singing of "Joy to the World".
Then there is the best part of Christmas: the gifts. The best gift I gave this year was to my wife. Through shutterfly, I was able to get her a black hooded sweatshirt that has four pictures across the front: The two of us in front of one of Iguzu Falls in Brazil, our wedding picture, a pictue of us hiking on the Crow reservation, and a professionally done portrait. Beneath the picutes is printed our wedding date. Meanwhile, she gave me Atlanta Braves pajamas, blanket and pillow.
Family, food, faith, gifts. This year, as it should be, the best part of Christmas was Christmas.