I have to admit, I was a little worried about how the rest of Christmas would go — expectations were running incredibly high in certain key quarters — but it was wonderful. Really and truly, it was festive, warm, relaxing, peaceful, and… well, remarkably stress-free. All in all, wonderful.
After starting their Christmas morning off properly with a nice restorative bath, the girls were allowed to go appropriately wild over the rocking horse before we trussed them up in their coats and bundled them off to church (which was just the right mix of festive and solemn and — oh joy! — the Mass was not lost amid the music) . And then it was the opening of the rest of the presents under the tree, during which my daughters were amazingly well-behaved and actually shared their gifts with one another. I was ready for grabbing and tantrums and sibling strife, and ended up instead sitting back in my chair and marveling at the scene of peaceful cooperation before me.
And then it was coats on again to go to Grandma and Grandad’s for dinner with the whole extended family — 16 of us in all. I have to admit, I was nervous — I’m always a little bit wary of big gatherings but especially when I feel I have to perform somehow, and I did feel everyone would want me to gush on about how wonderful our first year in the States has been… But they didn’t and the day was just plain enjoyable from one end to the other. Everyone was in good humour, the food was delicious, I enjoyed being in the company of my family, and even successfully avoided getting stuck talking to the every-family-has-one boring uncle. Bingo.
Naptime came and went, and I waited for a meltdown from one or the other, but it never came. They stayed out of the living room and kitchen, they ate all their food — spilling nothing on their Christmas Day dresses — and they had nothing but smiles for everyone all day. When we finally got home around 9pm, we got them straight into bed and they fell asleep almost immediately. It had been a long day for them — for all of us — but I couldn’t have been more pleased.
On Boxing Day, my parents and sister came to our house, bearing all the Christmas gifts that we had been meant to open at their house the day before but which we’d had to postpone when time ran short. There were bags and bags of presents — Christmas is the kind of holiday that feeds my mother’s voracious streak of generosity, and the present-unwrapping took no less than two hours. At the end of such a marathon-run of giving and receiving, even the adults begin to lose patience, but the girls… well, the girls were good as gold again and I was stunned again. Honestly, I don’t know what got into them those 48 hours, but it helped so much.
And one other thing that helped a lot: my sister loved the gift I made her. I honestly didn’t know if she would. I didn’t know if my sister — who makes it clear that she’d rather we all stuck to her Amazon wishlist, who has time and again forgotten not only to thank me for gifts but even to let me know she’s received them, and who often forgets to send gifts or cards herself — I didn’t know if she’d like it at all, or if she’d take one look and chuck a cursory “thanks” in my general direction, before setting it aside without even a backwards glance.
But she didn’t — she loved it! I’d made her a set of fridge magnets, showing every place she’s lived, on a map written in one of the (four) languages she speaks. As she looked down at them in utter confusion, trying to make out the distorted letters and slowly sound out the names, she suddenly realised what they were and let out such a whoop, and then rushed over to give me a great big hug. It was a silly thing, really, in the whole scheme of things, but it meant the world to me. And it made my Christmas entirely.