Here are the elements of Christmas, 2016.
The family. My son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter; his dad and stepmother; and his step-brother with his wife and their daughter. I love my family.
The scene. A large house on the Oregon Coast, with enormous windows in the living room providing unending entertainment: waves crashing onto the rocks below with great masses of foam and spray; long rolls of gray-green, foam-crested, curling swells four, five, six lines into the ocean; the stretch of ocean to the horizon and glorious sunsets of pink-tinged clouds and shining-foil gleams of sun reflected on the water.
The children. The two little girls, eight and a half and nine years old, were incarnations of what Christmas is all about (love, shiningness). Their love for each other spilled out of their hugs and onto us all, like the waves of the ocean washing again and again onto the beach. Their laughter and creative energy sparkled more brightly than the gold foil decorations dangling from the turning fan. Their games drew us all in. Their laughter blended with the Christmas music, keeping us all always in good humor. Their mirrored beauty kept us enthralled: the golden blond girl and the dark-haired exotic one, the porcelain white skin and the creamy-rich darker color, constant reminders that all children, given love, are beautiful.
Good food. Turkey and all the sides. Good home-made soups. Salads with the freshest of vegetables. Breakfast burritos. Tacos for first-night dinner. Zuppa inglese (an Italian custard cake) for Christmas dessert.
Games. Card games with the children. A game based on video game vocabulary that the grown-ups gave up on understanding how to play. (To be fair, the girls were too young to figure it out, too.) A diabolically difficult picture puzzle that in the end, in spire of all we could do and all the time different ones of us put into it, remained unfinished. Charades. A quick-response game with an electronic prompt. Giggles and shrieks of laughter from the children.
Walks on the trail above the ocean rocks,
then down on the beach itself, where the two girls chased, and were chased by, the rolling surf until they were drenched.
Drawing a maze in the sand, then watching as people twisted and turned through it.
Walking – I walked so far down the beach (and still so much beach to go beyond me) that I began to feel like I was on a treadmill. My feet kept moving, but the scenery never changed, always the ocean ceaselessly rolling, unchanging, eternal, as the ocean is. At the rocky shore, I stood for long spells watching the waves explode into spray and the foam collecting on the flat rocks as the tide receded.
Gifts. We made a cardboard Christmas tree and decorated the room with streamers. Everything was festive and shiningly beautiful.
There were ample gifts for everyone, and I'm glad to report that even with the children, there was no frenzy of gift-getting: paper ripped off impatiently, the gift snatched from its box only to be tossed aside for the next paper-wrapped gift to be ripped into. Gifts were appreciated. My granddaughter's eyes shone when she guessed by the size and weight of the box that I had given her Katie Kubes. Homemade gifts, practical gifts, kitchen gifts – gifts that said, "I thought you might like to have this." Heartwarming, soul-satisfying gifts. Gifts that tell us what Christmas giving is really all about.
All in all, it was the kind of Christmas that is what Christmas is really all about.