the restlessness of the season. whenever christmas comes around i begin to notice in myself and others a restlessness, a busyness, an excitement, that cannot be felt at any other time of year. perhaps it's the snow, perhaps it's the gifts, perhaps it's the people surrounding this time of year, but for me, it is the childlike anticipation of magic. the magic that happens on christmas morning when all the elements come together.
christmas at my house has always looked just about the same, even though we have grown older. christmas eve is christmas with the kimbrells. all of my mother's family goes to my grandparents house and we eat a christmas eve lunch of baked ham (never been my favorite, but hey, it's tradition), deviled eggs (always my favorite), candied sweet potatoes, homemade rolls, and usually mashed potatos, inevitably with some form of cranberry salad for the three people that eat it. all the kids have to be patient because we always eat before we open presents. always. after we eat we vote on if we want dessert yet or not, and consistently the children all emphatically vote no dessert, let's open presents. as the years have gone by the focus of the kimbrell christmas has shifted. it went from my brother and my cousin george and i to george's little sister hannah and then to my youngest cousins ryan and alicia who are now entering high school and are no longer our babies.
still, though, the looks on their faces when they open their presents is priceless. it's always a conflicted sort of emotion. they are so excited to open it, almost always thrilled with the present inside, but still conflicted how to show the emotion because they just want to run to the other room to play with it, but they know they need to be polite and go find the person that bought it for them and thank them appropriately.
christmas eve night brings our church's children's program. all the sunday school kids put on a program with cheesy poems and one liners about jesus' birth and the reason for the season. each year there has been something new added, whether it's the new christmas eve band that opens the program (since all the kids are up to about 5th grade now and can play instruments...don't want those dollars to go to waste now...) or the jr. high girls singing some christian rendition of some christmas song that makes them feel like they are about 10 ft. high because "it's on the radio too." this year i am going to be in the nativity scene. in years past it has been put on by high school kids, but this year they are making it adults, for some unknown reason, and i am supposed to be an angel. come christmas eve i'll be donning a 20 year old silky white robe that only goes slightly past my knees, while everyone else's seems to go to the ground, tie on the gold, scratchy, christmas garland halo, which has to have fallen apart 13 times and been tied back together 12 times, and march out in front of the church family that i have known and loved for 21 years of my life and raise my arms in the air while they sing "angels we have heard on high." i did this role during high school. i never expected to do it again. it's a very humbling, embarassing, but slightly prideful moment of every christmas season.
from the stage i can always see jan howard. she has to be about 83/84 now. she taught me how to play piano at the age of 4, when my feet couldn't reach the pedals and she put stacks of books from her bookshelf there so i wouldn't kick my feet around for the whole lesson. she led me to Christ when i was 5 after her Bible story time at vacation bible school. she has tears in her eyes as she sings the glorias of the song, shining the glory of jesus through her eyes and smile. she is the most Godly woman i have ever met. she has led so many of us to christ as children. she is one of our spiritual mothers, and everyone has been effected by her life.
i can also see chuck pahl, who, rambunctious as ever, is still winking at the angels, trying to get them to break their pose and laugh. he is always the one you have to watch out for and warn your friends about when you bring them home. when nathan started dating carlie he would go up to her everytime she came to church and say "wait...you aren't the same one he brought last week...." as if she was one of many. he's a troublemaker.
christmas day has always been the same in my memory. my brother and i typically wake up by 8:30 or 9, take a quick shower, and call grandma harding to drive up. we are waiting on the couch in our pajamas, after doling out the stockings, waiting for the rest of the family to come sit down. we always have hot chocolate (at least mom, ben, and i) and i crawl under the tress and pass out all of the gifts, making huge piles, seemlingly endless. over the years this event has calmed down and changed gears. when we were young, ben and i just tore into our gifts, always getting through them too quickly for our own satisfaction. as we grew older we adopted a "one-at-a-time" style where we made everyone go around the room and open one present at a time so we could all see what everyone got. this, of course, was in the "everything must be equal" stage, so when we realized this brought attention to the fact that maybe he got more or maybe i got more, but we all got more than dad or mom, then we decided it was a bad strategy, and moved on to our current tradition. everyone opens at their own pace, on their own time. i personally like to sit and watch for about 15 minutes before i even start. i like seeing the look on people's faces as they open their gifts. there's always so much pressure on how to react, but someone when it's with your family, it doesn't matter, and it's all much more genuine.
around lunch my mom's parents come over to have cinnamon rolls and usually soup, and they stay all afternoon and play board games and see what we got from everyone else. in the evening the winterroth's come over. the twins and ben and i play settlers of catan and we all eat christmas candy and sometimes watch christmas movies, and just hang out and do the family thing.
day after christmas my dad's sister and her family come into town for a couple of days and the sarcastic are reunited, as my uncle mark and cousin kyle often bring home new wacky talent for us to listen to, ready with biting comments about it all. there is often uproars of laughter throughout the night, especially when grandma starts cackling from the kitchen because she's found the santa (part of the kissing santa/mrs. claus set that sits on a little bench on her kitchen table) that dad hides in a new place every christmas. one year he put it in the back part of the coffee pot, another time in the freezer, another time he gave it to her on christmas in a box wrapped delicately. every year there's a new surprise and a outburst of laughter from grandma, who just cannot fathom that he found yet another place to hide it.
so many traditions around this time of year. this is what fills me with excitment. the expected ordinariness of it all. i love it.