Michelle Martin


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Time was, I wrapped all of our Christmas presents the Friday before Christmas, cocoa in hand and “Holiday Inn” playing on the VCR. My husband and I took time out for a leisurely lunch — just the two of us — on Christmas Eve, before things really got crazy with family gatherings and meals and church and presents and did I mention family gatherings (plural)?

We’d spend Christmas Eve evening with his family, trek out to Du-Page County to catch the end of my family’s party, stay there and see both sides of my extended family Christmas Day.

It was exhausting. And we didn’t even have kids yet. Things changed when first Caroline and then Frank arrived on the scene — Frank coming less than a month before Christmas the same year my parents moved to Wisconsin. We started new traditions.

 For several years, we spent Christmas Eve at home with Tony’s family, went to Midnight Mass, slept as late as the kids would let us and then opened presents and had lunch before hitting the road to make it to Christmas dinner at my parents’ house. We’d stay there and enjoy the quiet for a couple of days before heading home for New Year’s.

Then came Teresa, who changed things last year, even before her birth. The end of a complicated pregnancy meant traveling several hours in a car in winter would not be the best plan, so we did not make the Christmas trip to Wisconsin, although the rest stayed more or less the same.

This year, with my in-laws both ill and away from home, things have changed yet again. We stayed home for Christmas, attended an early Christmas Eve Mass and a Christmas morning prayer service at the rehab center where Tony’s parents both are. We plan to visit my parents over New Year’s, figuring it would be easier to travel before my in-laws come home.

But between the kids activities and work and caring for a baby, Christmas was as hectic as ever, with the last presents getting wrapped after our guests left on Christmas Eve. It was the Friday before Christmas, after all.

 Some of the changes have been hard on Caroline and Frank, who sometimes seem to want a little more predictability in how things are going to unfold. But the most important things haven’t changed — or it doesn’t feel like they have.

Nearly a year after being born, Tony and the kids have all commented on how it’s hard to imagine our family without Teresa in it. It’s like we were waiting for her for years and just didn’t know it.

We still celebrate Christmas by going to church and gathering with family and friends, even if some of our loved ones can’t be there for all the festivities.

More things will undoubtedly change in the New Year, but the important things will stay the same. And maybe, someday, Tony and I can get back to that Christmas Eve lunch.