Our wise men are still journeying. Every year the sweet girl sets out the wise men and their camels a good ways away from the creche, on the other side of the living room. She moves them slowly across the room, leaving them to fend for themselves while we're out of town -- I think this year they got left on the bookcase, around the midway point in their travels. This year she was so excited when we did our family present opening on January 1st (8th day of Christmas) that she almost brought them to the stable. Then it dawned on her that they weren't supposed to arrive until Epiphany. She quickly faced them toward the wall, where it looks like they've taken a slightly wrong turn and are about to crash into the drama shelves of yet another bookcase. "I made them get a little lost," she informs us. "I don't want them to get there too early!"
It was a very ESV Christmas. D. and I had decided to get the sweet girl a new Bible; we chose the "Seek and Find" Bible which has the entire ESV (English Standard Version) translation plus some nice added features (Bible story retellings, book introductions, sidebars with some information on Biblical figures and times -- essentially an ESV study Bible for the mid-grade crowd). What I didn't know was that my dear husband had also gotten me an ESV study Bible, something I am really delighted to have. We moved over to the ESV a few years ago for all our family Bible reading, and D. and I have used the one copy we owned till it's almost in tatters. Having this beautifully fresh copy, complete with copious study notes, is such a blessing. It's hefty, which doesn't make it ideal for, say, trekking off for a quiet time in the woods (oh...wouldn't that be nice?) but for reading and studying at home, it's great.
It was a bookish Christmas in other respects. We've had some lean years when we haven't been able to get each other much of anything, including books (which used to be a Christmas gift staple). This year was still lean (which is fine, and our new normal) but some precious gifts from friends and family, and a gift certificate I won for a review I wrote for a website all came in handy on the book front. I got the two cookbooks I've been wanting for ages (Recipes from the Root Cellar and Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day) plus Looking for the King, the Inkling novel by David C. Downing. I was also blessed by a few other books that have been on my wish-list, including Karen Edmisten's Through the Year With Mary. D. found Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals under the tree, and the sweet girl got several books she'd been hoping for, including These Happy Golden Years, Thee Hannah, and The Wheel on the School (the last two thanks to my sister) along with some picture books.
We continued our yearly tradition of reading Madeleine L'Engle's The Twenty-Four Days Before Christmas on our way to Virginia. We may have a new book tradition at Christmas from now on too: this year for the first time we read The Trees Kneel at Christmas by Maud Hart Lovelace. It's up there with other Christmas-time favorites like The Light at Tern Rock. We were hoping to try A Christmas Carol as a family this year (even got the Jim Dale audio from the library) but had forgotten that the CD player in the car has gone caput. Maybe next year, if we start early and do it as a read-aloud in the evenings in December or listen to it here at home.
We saw the new Narnia film in the theater the day after Christmas. I'm still wrestling with a review: so much to enjoy (and I think Michael Apted's direction lends much more confidence and coherence to the storytelling) and yet it still just falls flat in certain places. They still have not gotten Aslan right, and never will. But laying that aside (a huge thing to lay aside) I still thought this was the best of the three films overall. And I'd enjoy seeing Will Poulter tackle the role of Eustace again in The Silver Chair -- he's a fine young actor. Voyage of the Dawn Treader is worth seeing for his performance.
Christmas day itself was a strange mixture of displacement and stress for all sorts of reasons. The trip seems to get harder every year. It helped to remind myself of how displaced Mary and Joseph must have felt as they made their way into Bethlehem. It also helps to keep things in perspective when I remember that there are many people in our world who are that displaced every day.
We were blessed to spend a day with my parents: an amazing day, simply because it was yet one more Christmas with my dad, something I was not at all sure we'd ever have again when he went into the hospital last spring. He and mom were feeling extra grateful for this Christmas too. Dad and I spent some fun time just hanging out and watching stuff on the MLB network. Baseball and Dad...doesn't get much better than that!
We were also blessed to have some extra time to spend with my mom-in-law, who is under a great deal of stress right now as as a caregiver for her husband who has alzheimer's. His confusion has grown much worse, but his essential sweetness often shines through, which makes seeing this happen to him both easier and harder, if that makes sense.
Not long after we got home, we received the news that the home of my husband's late grandparents (his mom and aunt's parents) had been demolished. We knew this was a possibility, but no one realized how soon it might happen -- so we didn't even drive by the house while we were in the area. We said our good-byes to the house last April, when it had to be sold, but we still feel great sadness to know it's gone. D's grandparents built that little home with great love over a great many years. And for many years, up until their deaths (including the first ten or so years after I joined the family) the house was the central meeting place for all family celebrations. I have a decade's worth of Christmas, birthday, anniversary, Easter, and July 4th memories all centered at that house. My husband (who turns 50 this year by the way!) has a whole life's worth, as do his mother and aunt. It was in that house that his mother and grandmother awaited their father/husband's return from Europe in WWII, where he fought with Patton. It's hard to make peace with the idea that the lovely little plot of land the house was on will soon be crowded with a new "McMansion."
So...it's the 11th day of Christmas. My fall semester grades are almost ready to turn in, I'm almost finished responding to diocesan students' papers, I'm starting to turn my mind toward spring semester work. The sweet girl started back to school here at home yesterday, though she's still watching Rudolf at lunchtime - hooray for Burl Ives! Things are slowly returning to our regular, daily winter schedule. I'm grateful Epiphany is on the horizon...and hopeful that the wise men will soon figure out where the stable is!