One fellow fell asleep on the couch, while the rest of the crowd was swapping stories, but no one lowered their voice or took much notice. You see, we’ve become accustomed to Aaron, a busy father of two children, dozing off while the rest of us talk.
For me, a big joy of Christmas is getting together with relatives in the home of my cousin Julie and her husband, Charles. They host a splendid celebration every year for about 20 adults and nine grandchildren, ranging from toddler to teen.
And this year, I resolve to thank God each day for these special people.
The mornings were serene as Julie, Charles and I sipped our coffee and greeted a new day. About 9, there’d be a knock at the door and the grandchildren, toting games, toys and stuffed animals, paraded into the house.
The youngest children headed for the toy room to wreak havoc, while adults started filling the living room.
The grown-ups pulled up chairs and began conversations that lasted from dawn to dusk. The hands of the clock sped by, while we caught up on the news that had unfolded since last summer, when we had our annual reunion on the beach.
As the afternoon wore on, there were occasional meltdowns in the children’s room, accompanied by cries of “Mommy, she hit me!” and “No, I didn’t!” and the most famous protest of all: “It’s not fair!”
When I needed a break, I sneaked into the guest room, switched on the white-noise machine and took a nap. Upon awakening, I discovered that more adults in the living room had dozed off, despite the mayhem in the kids’ room — and, amazingly enough, other folks were still talking.
At night a group gathered to watch Hallmark Christmas movies and make fun of them. Our laughter filled the room, as we noted the cliches, one by one: “They’re going ice skating! They’re drinkng hot chocolate! It’s snowing!”
One of the most humorous writers of the 20th century, Erma Bombeck, described her family: “We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts … inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending.”
As Bombeck would attest, family gatherings are far from perfect. There was the year a bunch of us came down with a stomach virus and the year my husband got hit in the eye with a paper airplane. This year, strep throat began decimating the crowd right after Christmas.
Still, no one can take the place of my beloved family, who cavorted at my wedding, cheered when my first book was published and prayed for me through the worst of times.
Every day, when I say my prayers, I ask God to bless the people who are so dear to me — not just relatives, but also faithful friends, compassionate priests and kind neighbors.
God has given us the mysterious moon, fancy flowers, bountiful birds — and treasured people. The list of his blessings is endless, but sometimes we concentrate on what seems lacking.
“The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away” is a famous biblical quote spoken by Job, who went through terrible trials, losing his family, his living and his health.
Generally, the quote is meant to comfort folks in the midst of tragedy, and it certainly does help.
Still, during this new year, let’s dwell on what the Lord has given us, not what he’s taken away.
For me, this includes the herd of wild children, zooming through the house. It includes adults staunchly facing life together, sharing the good times and bad, our laughter and our tears — and sometimes our viruses.
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Lorraine has written a biography of Flannery O’Connor, plus three mysteries, available online. Her email address is email@example.com