Toys and packaging are currently strewn from one end of our living room to the other. My daughters are happily playing with their gifts while my husband makes us breakfast. I am sitting in my office listening to the assorted sounds of children playing, paper rustling, and pancakes frying.
It is Christmas morning.
I woke before anyone else. The baby had stirred and needed to be nursed. I snuggled her and gave her milk while I strained to hear sounds of the rest of my family waking. All I could hear was the content sounds of a baby sleep/nursing and the quiet hum of our pellet stove.
I laid there for 20 minutes, allowing the baby to linger and my mind to wander. I remembered all the Christmases leading up to this one. I smiled at the memories of all the family that had filled these walls. For nearly 50 years my family celebrated Christmas here. My husband and I bought the house a few years ago.
I remember walking in the door to the smells of food being prepared. Holiday music filled the space between conversations and laughter. Hugs were abundant and love overflowed. In my memory, the food never waned. Abundance ruled and my belly would be full the entire day.
The grandchildren would run around and play while the adults watched, talked, and mostly, joined us. My grandfather, at some point, would try to wrangle us all into some semblance of order so he could take a photo. Inevitably, someone would stick his or her tongue out or cry or blink. Twenty minutes later we would all flee the scene and resume our play.
Slowly, the light would fade as the sun set in the back yard. Moms and dads would gather our things and give us five-minute warnings. Thirty minutes later we would succumb to their pleas and do our good-bye rounds. Hugs and thank-yous and kisses with the occasional pocketful of candy and we would head to our respective houses.
Christmas was over.
There was no social media in those days. Only a select photo was taken so as not to waste film. We didn't care that we couldn't post our gifts for the world to see. My memory doesn't even contain the details o any gifts I received. It contains more than any photograph could reveal.
I don't remember the biggest gift I was given or how much my mom spent on me. What I remember is the smiles on my grandparent's faces. The hugs from my nana. The laughter from an aunt who left us far too soon. I remember the games I played with my cousins and the excitement I felt to see them.
This year, while our daughters opened gifts on the very floor that I used to play lion tamer with my cousins on, my husband and I didn't take a single photo. We didn't post photos of our children surrounded by gifts to the internet. We didn't leave photographic evidence of what we did or did not spend on Facebook. Instead, we sat on the floor and we laughed. We laughed and unwrapped and clapped and ate chocolate before 9 a.m.
We created memories. For us. For our children. For no one else.
Because, for us, it isn't about the gifts. It is about joy and happiness and being together. It is about being grateful for having people in our lives that love us so much that they WANT to give us presents. It is about thinking of others and giving what we can to them. It is about the time spent with each other. It is about being able to sit in our small house with our two children and overflow with immense gratitude that they are ours.
The biggest gift I have ever received was never wrapped in shiny paper with a curly bow on top. Instead, it was built slowly, over time. I worked hard and shed tears. I gained and I lost. But now, today, on Christmas morning, it is abundantly clear that it was all worth everything.
My family is the very best gift I could ever receive. And I will happily post photos of that present for the world to see.