This December we are going to Utah to visit Melissa's family, as well as several branches of the Franklin family tree. This has meant lots of coordination and as it stands now, it looks like we will fly to Utah and stay with the Fitzgeralds for a week or so, then drive to Vegas to see my Mom and Dad and my brother Josh and various members of my Dad's family, then come back to Utah to attend Savior of the World with the Fitzgeralds (including newly Married Amy and Caleb), and then meet my other two brothers (Jason and Tom), plus my sister Misha and her husband Chad and my parents for Christmas in Salt Lake City at Jason's house. And we'll likely round out the trip with a final few days with the Fitzgeralds before coming home at the end of December.
Last Christmas we spent with the missionaries and a single friend of ours in our little campus apartment and we ate Avalanche Pizza. And as much as we love our missionaries, and as much as we love our friends, and as much as we love our neighbor down the street who is responsible for all that award-winning pizza down at Avalanche, we are all looking forward to Christmas with family.
Christmas has always meant crowded malls full of busy shoppers caught between the peace and pressure of the season and a list of seven brother and sisters, plus mom and dad, plus a variety of husbandswivesgirlfriendsboyfriendsinlawsniecesnephewsneighborsfriends who all need gifts, deserve gifts, may not get gifts if I don't get out and get some shopping done, and the three tattered boxes marked "Christmas" pulled from storage and opened to reveal strings of white lights from my oldest sister's wedding, and the old-standard ornaments--the snoopy set, the plaster santas and plush picture frames and clothes-pin-reindeer and broken bulbs and three dozen macaroni angels painted white holding neon pink hymnals, and miles and miles of fake ivy and that old Mr. and Mrs. Claus--heavy cast ceramic wrapped in the same yellowed napkins we repack them in every year, and the nativity scene that looks like some half-hearted family reunion with only Baby Jesus, and Mary and a headless Joseph accompanied by a sheep, a camel, a ram, and just one remaining wise man, ever faithful, returning year after year to our living room to worship the Christ child, and I wonder if he's carrying the gold, the frankincense, or the mir--and all by himself up there he feels like some kind of metaphor. . . and that nativity always sits on the hallway table, overlooking the freshly vacuumed carpet around a newly decorated tree and the soft glow of lights peaking out the window . . . and in the kitchen on the counter--squares of fudge or thumb-print cookies or candy-canes decorated like Rudolph brought on paper plates to the door by friends and neighbors and home teachers (thanks Brother Potter), and a growing basket of Christmas cards from friends and faces from around the corner and across the country, and the whole family breathing the cool air of the front porch while carolers smile and sing with rosy cheeks, and a bag or box or truck-load of canned goods, a few gifts, maybe a tree for a sad stranger, and ginger bread houses leaning leaning leaning from the weight of so many gum drops--and the cross-stitch of the three wise men my mother always hangs in the hallway--the three that always come together-inseparable and ever-present during the season, and the birthday party my in-laws throw for baby Jesus on Christmas Eve (complete with the Birthday song and cake) and long nights of chatting over pumpkin pie and rounds of Boggle, and one long night on Christmas Eve of wrapping and setting out and filling stockings, and (for all parents I'm sure) a night of wondering if they got "enough" for everybody, wondering if this year will be "fair," worried about the paper hearts of their children, so expectant, so hopeful, so innocently greedy for the bounty of Christmas morning--and then its early, or as we've gotten older, not so early, and breakfast is hot and long and carries very much the feeling of the pre-game show on Superbowl Sunday, and then we sit and talk and unwrap and "ooooh" and "ahhh" and "thank you," and "how wonderful" and "uh...." and "I can't wait to try it on," and "I'm definitely borrowing that," and "can you believe all this wrapping paper," and "I think there's one more, way back there behind the tree," and then the post-Christmas calm when for perhaps the only time in the entire year, no one really feels like they NEED to be anywhere but where they're at, when the toys on the floor don't seem to be a mess and the chess boards and decks of cards and old movies come out and outside it's quiet like someone turned off the city, except for the boys across the street trying out their new remote controlled car, except for the sounds of car doors shutting and bodies shuffling up the walk to grandmas house or Mom and Dad's or somewhere else they don't get to often enough, and though it all may seem sentimental, and at times (most-times) overly commercial, I don't think any amount of marketing could ever completely do away with the glorious potential for Happy that comes with the month of December.
And we are definitely looking forward to it.