Youngest Son has been home for a week, now. We have done all the normal family things, trying hard not to think about tomorrow when he returns to his mission assignment, trying to laugh, trying to soak up the togetherness and the memories. Middle Daughter and Youngest Daughter decided to go together to buy a cam corder to record some of the memories that could be our last.
Thanksgiving with the Yoders was a wonderful time. My sensible sibs all agreed that we didn’t want the day to turn into a sobbing wet mess. There were some tears, but there was far more laughter and story telling, and support and courage and food, of course. “The lines have fallen unto me in pleasant places. I have a goodly heritage!” There was a grand mix of siblings, in laws, grands and their spouses, and great grands, (The Great-grands are so wonderful–they really light up our lives) and of course, Grandpa and Grandma Yoder.
Then our own family scrambled around trying to be ready for Christmas the next day. We celebrated “Little Christmas” last night. For the first time, it appears that one of our children will be missing on Christmas Eve proper. We decided a few months ago to have our family gift exchange (where the offspringin’s and Certain Man and I pull names out of a hat and buy something for that particular person) on November 25th.
Eldest Daughter, Youngest Daughter and Niece Holly and I went Shopping early on Friday morning –( Something I have never done before, and don’t think I will be very apt to do again, but this time I was constrained.) By the time I got home, there was supper to make, lots of straightening to do, and I was TIRED. The offspringin’s that live at home, plus Youngest Son’s Gal Jess, sprang into action and helped. They chopped and stirred and measured while others picked up and vacuumed and set the table and wrapped presents. I could never have made it without them. And I would not have wanted to. It was FUN!.
Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle Nelson and Aunt Rose wandered in around ten of six, and they helped to put the finishing touches on the traditional supper. Eldest Daughter and Beloved Son in law scrambled in, carrying interesting packages. We sat around the lovely table, replete with goblets and sparking cider, and ate the big pot shrimp chowder, and left over cranberry/apple salad, homemade bread that had been in the freezer too long and was still frozen, and pie, left over from Thanksgiving Day. There was laughter and stories, and puns from Beloved Son in Law (which, incidentally, we would not want to do without), and when everyone was stuffed, we headed to the living room to open presents.
Certain Man read the Christmas Story, that ageless, wondrous story of a virgin, espoused to a man named Joseph, bearing a child, calling his name Jesus. About Wise men, coming from the East, bearing gifts, and a king, jealous and vengeful, looking for a King who will always be the victor. And then Grandpa prayed. We have been blessed by this tradition for over 20 Christmases now. When our children were younger, they would fidget and get impatient. “Grandpa prays so LONG!!!” But now they look forward to it with eager anticipation, every one of them maintains that it would not seem right without it. His voice was strong, his prayer was a blessing, and we luxuriated in that voice we’ve heard so often, and never get tired of hearing.
This year, no one said, “Okay, bring on the loot!” (probably a first!) but they still unwrapped and exclaimed and thanked each other with joyful enthusiasm and shining eyes. Again, there was lots of laughter and good natured joking — and some inevitable tears. Most notably, from Youngest Son when he opened a long flat box that contained a picture frame with the word “Family” cut out of a mat, and in each letter was a picture of one of his family. That is a memory for all of us to carry in the months ahead. We are just going to miss him so much!
And then, too fast, it was over. And today, we are washing up laundry, packing suitcases, and trying hard not to dwell on the dark side of things. Days like today never have enough time, and I am far from finished tonight. But at nine o’clock tomorrow, Youngest Son is to pull out of Greenwood Church parking lot for the next leg of his adventure. Somehow, we will try to be ready. There is this stricture to my throat that I keep trying to swallow down, and I’m having less success as the hours pass.
The one good thing this evening was a report from my sweet Mama that Daddy had a better day today than he has had for a while. He had some energy, went shopping and did some of the things that he likes to do. We are always glad for any good news, and this seems like the best we’ve had for a while. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for the prayers, the love and the ongoing support that we all feel and treasure so much. We’ve been so blessed!