I’m typing this at 10:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve. The girls are in bed, I’m home alone, and JJ is over at church preparing for tomorrow’s service. At our former church, he was the only pastor, so all churchly responsibilities fell to him, which meant that he was always working at church on Christmas Eve, preparing for all the services. At our current church, he is one of three pastors, but as the choir director, he was still involved in the Christmas Eve services, and he will be up in front for the Christmas Day service (albeit by his own choice).
I guess it still feels odd to be so much on my own on Christmas Eve, even though it’s no different than it’s been every Christmas of my husband’s ministry. It just … is what it is. I don’t know that it will ever be different as long as we live in California. It’s our new norm; I don’t know why it still feels so odd to me. Perhaps it’s the move that has intensified the feeling that something is missing, because I don’t think I felt this so strongly last year.
Actually, I think my experience is pretty typical for pastors’ families. My father wasn’t a pastor, but he was the choir director and organist, and he was always very busy on Christmas Eve, too. But I really don’t remember any specific Christmases before about 7th grade. I only remember Christmas Eve of 7th grade because I had stomach flu that year and had to miss the children’s Christmas Eve services. My father obviously couldn’t miss, and my two brothers weren’t sick, so they went, so my mom went, too. I remember being at home alone in our big old house, feeling just miserable, and having the TV on just so that there was some sound in the house, except that the movie was “Tootsie,” which I’ve never watched since but I could hardly follow on that night. Why the local TV channel wasn’t playing “It’s a Wonderful Life” I have no idea. Perhaps it was on a different channel, but I was too sick to get off the couch to change the channel. Frankly, I was too out of it to care much what was on, but I remember being confused by the movie.
Anyway, that Christmas is the earliest one I remember. My memories of other Christmas Eves aren’t specific. I just generally remember that often we would have grandparents around, but sometimes not. I remember Mom usually made cherry soup on Christmas Eve (a tradition I tried to keep going in California, except that I can’t get good sour cherries here and no one likes cherry soup but me.) Besides the cherry soup, we also had cheese and crackers and summer sausage and oranges and hot cider and lots of cookies lying around. There were plenty of services, and Mom and Dad were always busy. I must have led a pretty carefree life, because I don’t remember being particularly busy. I remember looking forward to opening presents. Now, it’s my girls who look forward to opening presents, and I don’t care so much about getting presents anymore. Does that mean I’m finally a grown-up? 😉
Since I’ve been married and in California, we’ve rarely had family visiting for Christmas, so usually Christmas Eve is a nice, relaxing day with the girls and me. I remember an early Christmas Eve before we had kids where I spent Christmas Eve at the local big box bookstore, drinking a hot beverage and perusing through books as I sat in a comfortable chair overlooking the mall parking lot and the commuter train tracks. At our former church, we would try to invite family-less people over on Christmas Day, but this year we’re not doing that.
But, despite eleven years of quiet Christmases, it still feels odd to me. I guess the holidays bring on strong feelings of one’s childhood home like that. The thing is, I really don’t want to be anywhere but here – JJ and the girls ARE my home. And I know my girls don’t feel like they’re lacking anything or missing anything at Christmas. They’re certainly not lacking presents!
So, maybe it’s okay that our norm for Christmas is more a laid back, more quiet, more relaxed holiday. Maybe I shouldn’t feel like something is missing. Maybe it’s good that we can just be together as a family at Christmastime. We all love each other and we enjoy being together.
But, after eleven years, I starting to doubt that this feeling of “missing” something at Christmas will ever quite go away for me. Hopefully my girls will never feel that way. Perhaps if they grow up with quiet Christmases, then they’ll be content with whatever kind of Christmas celebrations life throws at them when they’re an adult.