Christmas is all about slick sidewalks and icy cold city lights. Hazy piano bars soundtracked with whiskey-throated singers and eggnog that can be lit on fire. Tiny well-wrapped boxes belie things like diamonds and silver or money or a handmade ornament. It's about trees planted everywhere, directly in your path and crowds who are holding onto their sanities with ragged fingernails. It's about taking an extra moment to buy the completely ludicrous cookies at the bakery because they are snowman-shaped, and to drive around on a Saturday night looking for the block with the most lights.
It's about the chipped, ancient nativity set in the yard of the church further up from my house, the baptists who suffer the theft of Jesus and his manger every single year and yet somehow it's always returned in time for storage again, and it's about dipping into those bakery sugar cookies with the gritty, glittery sprinkles on top that always taste good no matter how long they've been sitting out on the plate. It's about the arguments over construction of the gingerbread house and the worries over money and the anticipation of the new year following close behind.
It's about family and friends. Yes, the spirit has hit. Rather abruptly as usual. Normally I wait for it to arrive just as the children have their Christmas concert at school. We didn't go this year so I've been patiently wondering how long it would take to kick in otherwise.
And then I got the phone call which let everything else fall into place. Sam has had his third phone interview with a church on the west coast and they're flying him out in February to complete the approval process and he will be moving too. It never occurred to me that he would now have enough time invested to be considered for endorsement. It never occurred to me that he would seriously consider coming with us.
I never actually thought that Sam liked me all that much, frankly. I am such a pain in the ass. I cut into his friendship with Jacob, I was the liturgical equivalent of Yoko Ono when Jacob chose to leave the church and begin teaching, and then I fought physically and emotionally against Sam through every single day of the program he enlisted to help me deal with my grief over losing Jacob. He's not winced when I've sworn in the sanctuary and he's chosen to always ignore the moments I would lean over his desk to show him something on his computer and realized maybe a different, higher-cut shirt would have been a better choice for the church office and he's calmly and rationally diffused the neighborhood gossip that focused squarely on me when he split with Lisabeth.
Better than that, he's embraced Benjamin as his friend and he loves all the boys as brothers, in spite of a huge mile-wide rift that sometimes divides them into two camps, one of Cole's friends, the other of Jacob's. He is the glue, as it were and has incredible patience. For the God jokes and the What would Bridget Do? braceletgate and stepping in to shoulder the hard parts where someone has to be put back together. He has sat outside my pantry door many a night on the freezing cold kitchen floor while I told anyone who would listen from inside the door that God didn't exist and to please tell me again why I should believe otherwise.
He put Jake back in the box after I dumped it out not once but eleven times so far.
He's a recovering alcoholic, which means he helps the rest of us understand what makes Ben tick, or better yet why he keeps getting run over by the wagon. He hasn't touched a drink in years, and never will again, and the other boys are learning volumes about inner strength and determination and compassion from the guy that was once referred to as Reverend Jake's mini-me.
He's God in Sam-form to most of us and we worship him accordingly. Which pains him but at the same time I think he's incredibly touched to understand how much he means to us as a group and individually and he has chosen to repay us in kind by remaining part of the family. An active part, instead of a former part.
I did not expect this gift, and it makes me wonder if we're on a roll. If so, I'd like a pocket big enough to hide Ben inside and a few people brought back from the dead. Also, bring a woman for PJ. He is far too in love with this Victoria's Secret commercial to notice that Michael Bay doesn't direct real life so his standards need to come back down a little. Perhaps they will, abruptly, just like my Christmas spirit.
If not I'm sure we can instead be incredibly thankful that our bizarre and unconventional and deeply loyal circus family will be together in the new year.
I'm going to go back to putting the lights on the tree now. The day has gotten a whole lot better. Ben is going to be so excited. Everyone is.