With two young children before me, dreaming aloud of gifts Santa Claus may bring in a couple of weeks, practicing carols in music class at school, and plotting how many nights they may be able to unroll their sleeping bags by our Christmas tree, we have the holiday fever, certainly. But with my husband in Afghanistan on a long-term military assignment, my heart is also a few beats behind pace, knowing that our family’s celebration won’t be quite complete without him.
My first instinct was to plan on spending Christmas Eve and Day at my grandparents’ and parents’ houses, respectively, as I did when growing up. Extra company, distractions, good food… Isn’t it natural to want our elders to look after us when we’re feeling vulnerable?
But my little ones have let me know they’re pretty sure that our own home (where they’ve always spent this special time) is the right place to be. “How would Santa Claus know where to find us if we aren’t here?” “What if Santa stops here and there aren’t any cookies for him or treats for his reindeer? Will he come back again?” They’re looking at me to be the one to keep things steady for them, I realize. No surprises, except the ones we might find under the tree, are very welcome right now.
So, I think we’ll make ourselves cozy at home. Maybe the kids and I will make fondue on Christmas Eve (also our 10th wedding anniversary) after we bake cookies for Santa. I’ll plan a special brunch for Christmas morn. The big leather chair my husband favors will be empty then, the kids’ smiles and present-opening fervor captured on video for him to savor later, but we will make the most of our celebration, anyway, and hope that we get the chance to bridge the distance between us with a long phone call.
“Let there be peace on earth,” a prayer commonly made at this time of year, seems perhaps further out of reach than it ever has before. But this family is committed to working toward that lofty goal, and we dedicate the separation that our family is enduring to the world in an effort to create peace. While we enjoy our own traditions in these holiday festivities, we will remember those in the world that need to feel the warmth that is fostered in our home and hearts.