I was ready for it this year. Christmas was not going to catch me unprepared. Not again. Last year was, in my perfection driven brain, a disaster. I couldn’t get the house decorated, shopping wasn’t happening, I hadn’t managed to find the cute, personal odds and ends with which I like surprising my family, and nothing was wrapped. NOTHING. For a person who makes her own bows and delights in cloaking each present in just the right paper, resorting to bags and kinda cute boxes from Wal-Mart just didn’t seem right. I felt like I was cheating. That doesn’t mean there is a bloomin’ thing wrong with bags and unwrapped boxes and for those of you who use them, I am certainly not judging. I’m just saying it’s not me. And when I don’t do me, I feel like I’ve failed. Miserably.
But not this year. This year was gonna be different if it killed me. I broke my hard and fast rule about decorating pre-Thanksgiving since there was like an hour between that holiday and December 1. I ordered everything and it all came to me (because I am, after all, an aspiring hermit, and we don’t do Christmas crowds. Ever.) and I even managed to wrap everything as it arrived. It was glorious to see the presents encircling the tree, knowing I had fun stuff my kids would enjoy (if you don’t, please pretend) and surprises they wouldn’t expect but for which they had actually asked months ago.
Yep. I nailed it this year.
And then I got the flu.
Type B, to be exact. I went in to Urgent Care for a sinus cocktail and came out with a mask and a prescription for Xofluza. Fortunately, the timing was such and the medication so effective that my Christmas plans barely hiccuped. Unfortunately, I gave my daughter an early Christmas present. Flu. Type B. They diagnosed her at Urgent Care on Christmas Eve and sent her away with a mask and a prescription for Tamiflu because she’s still the main food source for their seven month old who is currently recovering from RSV. Although the government says Xofluza is safe for rats who are nursing their young, they aren’t so certain about feeding it to tiny humans. And since Malcolm is a tiny human rather than a rat, Tamiflu it was.
Now, as I sit in the glow of the Christmas lights, having successfully navigated one family gathering and waiting for the next one, I’m pondering what I’ve known all along. All the things I could control fell neatly into place . . . because I could control them. But the really important things—having all of my family with me, hoping Malcolm will be all right and not get the flu on top of RSV, hoping my little Kathryne doesn’t feel like garbage (her assessment Wednesday morning when I asked), hoping Dennis, who is now the sole caregiver in that house, won’t get sick—I have absolutely no say over whatsoever. I have no magic wand or super powers or anything that can make it all better. Even my Mary Poppins purse that holds one of everything doesn’t have anything that will remotely touch this.
There are so many things that can suck the joy right out of the most joyful soul at Christmas. Sadly, last year I let things that, in the overall scheme of life, didn’t really matter do just that. This year, although being prepared and on top of my to-do list was nice, it just wasn’t that important when Christmas Day rolled in with only half my children. Oh, it was still a lovely Christmas and I was so glad my Bartlett bunch could be here, but knowing how miserable my little one was, and how serious the risk was to our newest grandchild, brought home the lesson I seem destined to need time and again. Things. Don’t. Matter. Decorations are nice. Christmas presents are nice (and I’d probably have some explaining to do if the tree was bare when the grandkids arrived). But family—that’s the true joy of Christmas and when that circle is broken, whether by illness or Death, it simply is not the same. And when the circle remains broken, nothing is ever the same again.
So as we prepare to enter the coming year, packing away the twinkling lights, the gifts received, and all things Christmas, may we (as in I) remember what is truly important and where our focus should always be. As some wise soul once said, “It’s not what’s under the tree that matters. It’s who’s around it.”