In our family, Christmas isn’t a day, it is a season. There’s not one family get together, there are multiple planned out events every single weekend (and some weeknights) leading up to the big day.
And while I knew that many of our adventures would be canceled this year (stupid COVID-19), it didn’t really hit me that our family time could be limited as well. That is, until Thanksgiving.
You see, Paul and I had decided to open up a bit and let the girls do some extracurricular activities — they needed it for sure (as did we). We were full swing in dance, gymnastics and basketball — and even had let a few more friends in our circle — when out of nowhere Thanksgiving and the sniffles crept up on us.
While Paul and I both tested negative for COVID-19 (I guess people do still get sinus infections), it wasn’t worth the risk of seeing my parents for Thanksgiving. It was a hard holiday for me, but being only one day away from them and fearing the possibility of a false negative, we knew it was the right thing to do.
It was then and there that I knew we had to make some changes. Together as a family, we talked about what we would need to do to get to see our GG and Papa for the holiday season. When I told the girls that it meant we needed to stop playing with our neighborhood friends, while sad, they totally understood.
Skipping a month of gymnastics was an easy lever to pull, and quitting basketball was a no brainer with no masks on the court. And, sweetly, Maylie obliged to being the only one wearing a mask at dance class. She was fully prepared to share that she was wearing one because she loves her GG and Papa and wants to see them for Christmas.
While I was nervous that the girls would be disappointed in closing ourselves in for a few weeks, I quickly realized that they have already grown accustomed to the funk of 2020. It made my heart hurt, even through the pride I felt of their genuine understanding of it all. But most of all, I think that they too feel the way I do about what really makes Christmas: Family.
Because we hadn’t been super cautious, it had been months since I had really spent some time with my parents, and guys, it has been magical. You see, Christmas isn’t just a day of food and gifts. Oh no, it is so much more.
It’s piling up in my sister’s van with Christmas lights strung throughout and driving around to gaze at all the wonderful houses decorated so beautifully. It’s hitting up lit-up fairgrounds, museums and live nativities together. It’s popcorn with Reagan’s homemade melted butter mixed with M&Ms, cousin sleepovers, veggies and dip, Christmas movies, sweet turkey sausage with the best cheese and matching fleece llama Christmas jammies.
It’s matching baking shirts (yes, we like to match a lot) and too many cooks in the kitchen during baking day. Rolling out sugar cookies, unwrapping (and sneaking a few) Reese cups for the peanut butter cookies and even making the gross (in my opinion) Grinch mint cookies. Because at my mom’s house, everyone gets what they want.
It’s taking turns playing Christmas songs on the piano, belting out Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” during car rides, and reminiscing about my grandparents when Kenny G or Nat King Cole comes on.
It’s more wrapping paper than you have ever seen. It’s tagging the gift from a hilarious elf or hearing, “I forgot I got this,” 10 times out of my mother’s mouth.
It’s finding unopened bottle of wine (and maybe champagne) in the garage fridge from holidays past and staying up with my dad until 3 a.m. just catching up on life.
It’s poached eggs in the morning — like the most delectable and perfectly cooked centers with just enough run. These are eggs that I still cannot make. It’s cinnamon rolls with gooey icing and everyone wanting the one in the center.
It’s snuggles and hugs and church as a family. It’s my mom and I sneaking back to her bedroom and crashing on her bed — just for a few — to get away from it all and just be.
And it is worth every single sacrifice of not seeing friends or experiencing outside events just to be exactly where the Christmas season lives, with my family.
Despite the chaos of the year, I pray that you and yours can safely celebrate and feel all the joy, love and peace that the season has to offer.
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.