When I was younger sometimes my mom would ask me to fold clothes. I eventually quit doing it for her because a)I'm lazy b) she would go behind me and redo it indicating that c) she did it correctly. Now, I know that there isn't really a "right" way to fold laundry, and the way I do it is fine but the way Mom does it is really good. If there were a right way to do it, it is hers.
The same can be said about my little family unit of 4 going home to my parents' home for the majority of Christmas break: I'm a little lazy and we think the way Molly Bates does Christmas is really good. There is no right way to do Christmas...it is all good. Some families intentionally create memories of their nuclear family in their own home for Christmas and while BJ and I know that we can do that, for now we want our Christmas memories for Anna Cate and Molly to be made with Molly and Doug, there on Christmas day, spending as much time during the season with them that we can. Of the many, many list of things I love about BJ, I treasure deeply how much he loves my parents and my brother and his family. They are his family and I am so lucky that he thinks they are as great as I do. Maybe it is because we don't get to see our daughters with Susie that we cherish watching Nana with Anna Cate and Molly, or maybe we are a little lazy, but whatever the reason the yuletide is really good there, so the six of us spent the Christmas holidays together.
And, no we did not hang out in pearls, ties and cocktail attire the entire visit...it was New Year's Eve. The Bateses are eccentric (thus refolding t-shirts) and it was our family dinner -- more on that later.
In Centerville, the festivities kicked off as we enjoyed a lovely Christmas Eve family day with Douglas, Becki and Kitty. Breakfast Brunch was followed by an all-day gift exchange (eccentric family), candelit church service and the traditional get together with the family friends afterwards.
Becki and Douglas lit the last advent candle this evening.
Watching the fingers of Anna Cate hold her candle with BJ as I clutched the best gift of 2010, Molly, while Silent Night was sung stirred the elements of home and of family for my Christmas Eve glee.
But while family, candlelight and holy hymns warmed my heart for Christmas, it was tracking Santa with Aunt Becki as the Christmas cheer Anna Cate craved.
Next family tradition...
Daddy and I both tried the traditional reading of this most precious book, "The Littlest Angel" to keep Anna Cate's attention but holy cow are there some big words in that prose! Anna Cate really doesn't pay attention, which obviously annoys my father when he gets in the rhythm of the meter of the story, which then makes my mother nervous. So I intervened and tried to describe what is going on...that "All Paradise held its breath when the Littlest Angel perched himself like an unhappy fledgling sparrow on the very edge of a gilded cloud and prepared to take off" means he doesn't fly so well and the other angels make fun of him. And that "None but the Littlest Angel saw it rise from its place before the Throne of God. And he, and only he, watched it arch the firmament to stand and shed its clear, white, beckoning light over a Stable where a Child was Born" means that this little messy kid gave God a really good gift that became a beautiful star that makes us think of Jesus and Christmas.
But as I was trying to create some meaning here, Anna Cate said, "oh yeah, he wants his box that has a dog's collar in it." We asked her how she knew that?!?! She said she saw it at Miss Diana's on netflix. (Miss Diana's comes to the rescue of a Bates family moment). And so, the little party was moved to the computer for Daddy and Anna Cate to enjoy this sweet tale.
And then it was time to look outside once more to make sure the sky was clear...
And then dream of the magical reindeer and hopeful visit from a jolly old soul.
(Every night, Anna Cate got to go to sleep with Daddy Doug until we moved her to where she awoke on their floor the next morning.)
He came and all was well for Christmas day. BJ made a delicious breakfast, we lounged, looked at ornaments, watched the train, played a bit in the snow for the white treat from above and enjoyed a traditional meal in the evening.
The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other. ~Burton Hillis
The next day, we visited BJ's grandparents. They are so sweet and I'm so glad we made the trip for the special family time:
We celebrated a giant of my childhood, Kenneth Dotson, who turned 50. Our friends the Harworths have carried on the tradition of his mother (Nina) of having a beautiful christmasy cocktail party, and this year it was in Kenneth's honor. The winter we married, they hosted a beautiful bridal luncheon a their home, and when Patti's words moved me to tears during the ceremony, it was Nina's handkerchief I kept that dried my eyes. They are special friends.
BJ and I celebrated our anniversary a few nights early with a night out in Nashville alone, which included shopping and quality quiet time. We had appetizers at one restaurant, sushi at another one, and dessert at PF Chang's. It was silly and fun.
We came home about 9:30 to find this little tea party just commencing with a tablecloth by the fireplace-- Daddy in his tuxedo, Anna Cate in her new princess gown, Anna Cate and Nana in makeup with Christmas cookies they had made earlier in the day served with OJ from plastic wine or martini glasses.
My eccentric family...As BJ looked at this picture he said, "Anna Cate is going to treasure this picture forever." Me, too.
BJ was treated by Daddy on an overnight duck hunting trip that they say was "one for the ages." I'm so grateful for his generosity with my husband... I also think it will ensure our coming home each year! BJ loves the quality time with Daddy.
While the boys were hunting, my dear friend Whitney drove down with her kids, Kate and Jake, for an overnight play date. She wrote about the visit here. We played, let the girls paint our toy nails, ate, enjoyed a "spa" in Nana's hot tub. Kitty's family joined us as well. Douglas and I have so many memories of summer trips to visit Whitney and her brother, Judd, when we were little.
We raised our glasses of Maker's Mark or milk to our three-generation friendship, and the souls that embody and enjoy it.
Watching my children learn the art of and appreciation for dear friends is as rewarding as reaping the joys of friendship myself, and I feel quite smitten with myself for knowing this truth. Passing on the gift to the next generation of lasting connections is such an important piece of a happy life. Whitney is a source of inspiration, support and good cheer and I'm so proud that she is my friend. Her children are as delightful as she...I love them and love watching her mother them.
The week wound up with celebrations of the old year and ringing in the new year. Around a table, with a several course meal put together by Mom and Douglas (my brother), we enjoyed both the dining and drinking experience as well as the experience of reflecting and hoping with and for each other. We knew that on this evening when so many want to go out on the town, the perfect place to wrap up one year and begin a new one is at home with those who love each other, with the gift of this family...that began with just four of us and now is 9.
It was a delightful way for BJ and and me to spend our 6th year anniversary, because being in the presence of those that we love is what I think about when I reflect upon the festivities of our wedding as BJ and I began our life together.
Over wine from around the world, I was reminded that my experiences are made sweeter or given more meaning with the support, love and company of this family. We toasted each other, shared our challenges, our joys and our wishes, our hopes and our hearts with each other...and actually finished conversations as Mom and Dad had babysitters come watch the younger generation (except for a couple courses where Anna Cate joined us at Daddy Doug's insistence).
And then after a day of football watching for the guys and a duck meal prepared by Douglas, the Queens of the King family and their King came home. As much as I love the Bateses, I'm happy to be here in Virginia with these souls that give me the joy of the daily life. As we drove back home, BJ and I reflected upon the 4 original Bateses that each of us thinks the other 3 are three of the best people on the planet and we know that about each other. And maybe it is a tad annoying for my dear sister-in-law and her kindred spirit in my husband.
A few days later, my brother texted me that he hopes BJ and I know how much he and Becki love us, and I do know that. I hope they know how much we love them. I fervently hope that my girls can have the type friendship Douglas and I have, and if they don't that I don't die of a broken heart. An added bonus of our adulthood is that our spouses are two peas in a pod, so to speak!
So maybe that is what Molly Bates and her unit of 4 and now of 9 do so well...we know how to love each other. So while I don't fold t-shirts correctly or want to do all the baking and stocking stuffing that my Mom does quite yet, I'm pretty sure I have figured out what is most important and that is to cheer on, listen to and love lavishly my little unit here. I'm not really making any New Year's Resolutions this year, but instead I'm going to celebrate my blessings of 2010 and embrace both the challenges and hopes of 2011, with rejuvenation after the Christmas break filled with precious memories that will linger for all of us.
Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself...
~Norman Wesley Brooks, "Let Every Day Be Christmas," 1976
When I think about 2010, I can't imagine a year that I've been busier or more taxed, but more blessed. I feel strong, healthy and in love... capable of the challenges and aware of the joys. It is a good place. Now that Christmas is in our hearts as memory and blogged about, I need to think about taking down its decor and opening myself up for the best of 2011. Already I've enjoyed a beautiful gift in dear friends I feared I lost and BJ turns 32 tomorrow! Let 2011 roll.