Christmas morning gifts us with sparkling lights, dollies, stockings overflowing with chocolate, marzipan cake and banana cream pie for breakfast. But nothing, nothing compares to the sight of this boy smiling at us from Italy:
We laughed as much as we talked, jostling for position in front of the screen, peppering Ben with questions and laughing again at everything, everything, everything.
After nine months and nine days, we finally heard his voice, saw him move and laugh and make goofy faces. And I don’t think I knew the weight of worry in my heart until it lifted at his words, “I’m so happy. I’m SO happy.” For seven months he’s been in a foreign country spending every day with strangers (many who wish he would just go home); letters are wonderful, but to see his face, to hear him laugh.. ahhhhhhhhh, I finally know that he’s OK.
I repeated his phrase the rest of the day: dancing in the kitchen, playing dolls and legos, hugging our friends at church, “I’m so happy. I’m SO happy.”
In some ways it seems cruel to limit phone calls/skype to twice a year, but the scarcity makes those calls so precious and all of us so precious to each other. My little family gathered round, laughing and talking with Ben, was truly all I wanted for Christmas.
But of course we had other presents.
My wildly creative boys like to construct their own gifts– mid-December brings a flurry of wax, wood, nails and saws to my kitchen counter (“take that out to the porch!”) as they brainstorm over gift ideas. Wisely, I requested nice notes rather than a gift. When I suggested Dad might like heartfelt words of love rather than a wood and paint creation, Stefan scoffed, “At this point it’s not about what dad might want; it’s about what we want to make.” Hans nodded agreement while furiously eating Babybel cheeses simply to harvest the wax for candle making. Hmm, later when they inserted firecrackers in the candles and blew them up in the backyard, I think they’d abandoned all pretense of gift-making.
And you should have heard her shriek with delight when Xander presented a new doll bed, “It’s exactly what I need!”
Other gifts included a key to the city for Hans, pre-peeled clementines for me, drawings, a rubber band gun and a very interesting calendar.
You can be a shepherd or a wise man in our Nativity, but the roles of Gabriel and Mary are taken.
You’ve heard William Vaughan’s words– “The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a family all wrapped up in each other.”