Thursday, December 25, 2008

Scenes from a Christmas

It's hard to believe that 24 hours ago Michael and I were scrambling to get the last of the gifts wrapped and brought upstairs to put under the tree, and now it's all over - 364 days before we have to do it all again. The house is quiet, the kids are all in bed after a day of gluttony and excess, Michael's even in bed, so I'm enjoying a few minutes to myself to reflect on the day.

After all the gifts were opened, we had our traditional big breakfast a la Michael (I helped . . . I made french toast using egg nog and cinnamon bread - something new; it was pretty good) and spent the majority of the day putting new toys and gadgets together. For dinner Michael grilled steak and I made cheese fondue with apples, potatoes and bread for dipping, followed up by chocolate fondue for dessert. This has become our traditional Christmas dinner, and the kids look forward to the fondue. Fondue, if you've never had it, is a very social and interactive food. It's fun.

Then there was the clean-up, getting everyone to bed, and here I am.

Two things that stand out:

~ A phone call to my grandma. I called her to wish her a Merry Christmas and we had a nice chat . . . that is, until she first told me that my mother reads my blog (this isn't news to me; I am very well aware that she reads it and it's really neither here nor there to me. I only hope that she appreciates this window into my life), and then she told me that my brother is apparently "missing." Without going into a whole lot of history and detail, I have two brothers, one two years younger, and one 10 1/2 months older (yes, 10 1/2 months). I am estranged from both, as I am from my mother. My younger brother and I actually used to be very close, but that was a long time ago, and it really doesn't have anything to do with this. It's my older brother who my grandma says is missing. I haven't laid eyes on him for over 15 years, and it's been 13 years since I last spoke to him. He's led a very messed up life from what I know - could never hold a job, in and out of jail, drug problems, etc. Last I heard, he up and moved to Idaho several years ago. And now he's "missing." I'm not sure what that means exactly. And I'm not sure how I'm supposed to feel about it. I've often wondered how I would feel if I learned that something happened to one of my estranged family members, and I've never come up with an answer. My brother is an utter stranger to me. I feel a sadness that something might have befallen him, but it's the sadness felt for a stranger that you feel completely disconnected from. I have terrible memories of him, horrible things he did. I don't know how to feel.

So the phone call with my grandma kind of put a damper on the day for me.

~ Random acts of kindness: there is an elderly man who lives behind us. He lives alone. His kids are all grown and gone, and his wife passed away shortly before we moved into this house almost four years ago. Every Christmas that we've been here, he has quietly left something on our front porch a night or two before Christmas: gifts for the kids. And the gifts have gotten progressively more thoughtful and extravagant each year. He does it quietly, without ringing the bell, without any fanfare. And every year I am surprised because it's just not something I expect. We've done nothing to earn his kindness and generosity, and honestly I feel very undeserving. We are friendly to him when we run into him outside, but we've never gone out of our way to be extra neighborly to him or anything, and yet, he shows this kindness to my kids every Christmas, and I am so moved by it. So Michael opened the front door this morning to bring wood in for the fireplace and found a huge gift bag on the porch from "Santa Al," with musical instruments for the kids, Hotwheels, and a stuffed bear with some baby blankets and a bib that says "My First Christmas" on it for Finn. Really, I'm just speechless. It's not the gifts that bring me close to tears, it's the thougtfulness and kindness behind the gifts.

So that was our Christmas, and now some photos:

The whole bunch of them

Annabelle in her new robe, which I had to wrestle her out of later in the day

Kevin got a skateboard, among other things

A new baby for Lilah

Did I mention the gluttony and excess?

The girls' new dollhouse


Ariel said...

I really needed such doll house for me during my childhood.

Liz said...

That dollhouse looks familiar!! :) Ours was a hit, too.

Maybe there is a way to connect with your neighbor. Maybe bake some cookies and head over with the kids to deliver them. Or some bread or something. I bet that would make his day!

As to the family thing... I have a side to my biological history that I have no connection with. Someday bad things will happen to those people and I will know nothing about it. I suppose I've already mourned the loss of those relationships so what happens to the actual people is less important.

Leigh Anne said...

Looks like you and your family had a nice celebration. the story of your neighbor brought tears to my eyes. that is the thoughtfulness that i miss during this season. so many people have lost that sense of kindness. that brightened my day.

hope you all are well today lisa. finn looked like he had a great first Christmas :)

Cindy said...

That is really neat about your neighbor!
Sorry to hear about your estranged family and your brother missing. If my mom read my blog I think it would annoy me. It would bug me that she get to know my kids through my blog and not even care to talk to me or any of my family. Oh well - I am sorry they put a bit of a damper on your day.

Looks like the kids had a very fun day. How sweet.

Amy@Bitchin'WivesClub said...

Love the family pic and THAT Dollhouse is AMAZING!!

Anonymous said...

WOW, that is one serious dollhouse!