Last night, we spent Christmas Eve as we always do, at my brother and sister-in-law's. She's not jewish, so even though my little family celebrates Hanukkah, we have the lovely tradition of spending this night together, with lights, a Christmas tree (decorated in part with ornaments we've made over the years) presents waiting for us underneath. My brother is the most generous gift giver ever so for us, especially Iz and Jack, it's a true "Santa Clause" experience.
After a deliciously elaborate dinner with not just one, but three different kinds of potatoes, including tater tots to the delight of just about everyone, and chocolate tofu pie for dessert—my all time favorite—it was time for gifts. At that point, past 9:00, Iz and Jack were getting antsy. It's hard to wait for the anticipated present-extravaganza we'd be planning for for weeks, as the grown ups sat and chatted. We sat in a circle by the tree, the kids distributing the piles of presents. And then, we went around the circle, each person getting a turn to open one, while everyone watched. Usually it's more of a free-for-all, with paper flying, so this was new. And great. Each gift was celebrated by everyone. And I have to say, there were some pretty fabulous things. While it would take a ridiculous amount of time to acknowledge each here, plus quite the stretch to my memory, I have to give a shout out to some of the more memorable moments.
For the first time Jack bought presents for everyone himself. He saved money and spent days pouring through catalogs, finding what he thought was the perfect item. Each gift he gave was exceedingly thoughtful—my favorite were two tiny white ceramic factory sculptures. My brother's had a horse shoe on top for good luck, my sister's was decorated with celebration balloons. Both perfect for where they are in their lives.
Iz got Jack a mug covered with illustrations of famous moustaches. Who knew that would be the gift he'd want to take on vacation. He fell in love and spent much of the walk home (when not taking remarkable art shots with the digital camera he'd also gotten), talking about how he'd always dreamed of his own cup to drink hot chocolate from. She also got him a yo-yo to add to his burgeoning collection—I got the same one for my brother, who suggested a yo-yo competition. Jack struck a pose and with just the right attitude, responded, "it's on." So, they stood away from everyone for awhile, practicing tricks, making sure not to smack each other in the head with around-the-world stunts. I have to note that at that point Jack was in the XXXL shirt he'd gotten, apparently having one was another dream of his.
Another fave: my sister's boyfriend gave the kids gift certificates to the movies along with the offer to take them to see anything they wanted. While they're both thrilled, I think I'm even more so, as it means I don't have to see the Alvin and the Chipmunks squeak-quel. My gifts for the evening, from my brother, was a serious of technology gifts that required an explanation for almost every one. I know my stuff, but somehow he finds things I'd never heard of: a battery extender for my iphone, in the ear headphones for skyping, and a seriously high tech bluetooth headset as well. This morning I want to label all the chargers so I can't lose track of which goes to what.
My sister in law loved the silver ring set with smoky topaz. We discovered she's a finger freak. All fingers on both hands are the same size—she had the option of wearing that ring in eight different places. There were the Obama art coffee table books, the hand knit hat that worked over dreadlocks, the vintage troll doll, the toast band aids.
I thought the cat chia pet Jon found for my sister would be the most outstanding gift of the night. I'd already given my brother the plush kidney, for luck, earlier in the week. But, it was trumped with the Atari fleece pajama pants my sis found for him. It's hard to imagine a product exists in the world that he doesn't have, or at least know about. He was utterly surprised and delighted, promising to wear them today, even outside to walk the dogs.
And then, I opened my last gift. Iz asked that I save it for the very end. It was a gold-finished old pill box. I pulled off the ribbon—a quick aside here: Iz put the ribbons on just about all our gifts and announced that fact EVERY time one of them was opened—and she told me it was a little box of love. As I popped the lid, tiny needle felted hearts in shades of pink, red, and white spilled out. Iz told me I was to carry it with me all the time, so I'd always know how much she loved me. And that it was a metaphorical gift.
My heart filled to the point of exploding. Tears stood out in my eyes and we just stared at each other, as I tried not to cry. It doesn't get more beautiful, personal, delicious than that. One of the moments of motherhood that I will always cherish. Having said that, it was a night of those moments. Of laughing ridiculously hard. Of enjoying being together. Of appreciating how thoughtful everyone in the room was towards each other.
I am always grateful for my family. We're quirky, and we've got stuff, and we don't always get along. But I know I would do anything for the people in that room and that they'd do the same. That presents are a way of showing how we feel when it's not always easy to express it in words. That the smallest things—instant chocolate pudding, an atomizer of hand sanitizer, a duncan yo-yo—can bring joy. How we're delighted my sister's boyfriend was there, that we all wish more than anything my brother's health improves. And that, even with how crazy life can be, there are moments, evenings, of comfort and joy that soothe my soul.
I love you guys.