Part 3: Christmas at MorMor and MorFar’s
Our last day of school/work was Friday, December 17. That entire week was absolutely over-the-edge with Braydon working round-the-clock on a big project, me trying to wrap up the fall semester & plan/pack/prepare for a major trip for a family of five & do everything Christmas (i.e., presents for everyone near and far, etc., etc., etc.). The three bambinos were bouncing off the walls in anticipation of all-that-is-Christmas. It was not pretty and I am not ashamed to admit that I melted down with ugly crying fits on more than one occasion (including, for example, the cop incident). It was hard to imagine I’d be feeling any “Joy to the World,” but – as I do every Christmas – I took the leap of faith that the ten hour drive up north would put some distance between me and my pain-and-suffering and it would be all worth it. We hit the road very early Saturday morning with our car jam-packed-crammed floor-to-ceiling and Braydon and I running on less than a few hours of sleep. While the bambinos watched The Polar Express and ate donuts in the backseat, Mommy and Papi drank coffee and tried to deconstruct the fast-paced-blur of the past month of our lives.
We headed first for Massachusetts where we had a lunch and Christmastime visit with Braydon’s mom/Gamma, Aunt Diana, and Uncle Guy. It was good to connect and spend time with them. From there we got back on the road and zipped it straight to Portland, Maine for our Christmas kick-off treat to ourselves: a night at a splendid hotel with an indoor pool and scrumptious room service. Honestly, it was just what we J-Ms needed to re-orient and put us in the right frame of mind.
Sunday the 19th the family festivities began when we all met up for what has become our traditional lunch in Portland at Gilbert’s Chowder House. Cheers all around!
And then we were all off to Portland’s Symphony Hall for one of our steadfast traditions: the Magic of Christmas Concert by the Portland Symphony Orchestra. And get this: This year was our THIRTIETH YEAR of going to this concert! 30th. Seriously!
After the concert we J-M’s headed to MorMor and MorFar’s house. Where we found… Christmas at MorMor and MorFar’s. We were disappointed that there was no snow on the ground, but there is still something totally magical about Christmastime at MorMor and MorFar’s house –inside and out— snow, or no snow.
MorMor made seven different kinds of Christmas Cookies this year. Each a unique and time-consuming craft unto itself. And it didn’t take long for everyone to claim their favorites… including Meera, who this year was all about the Spritz. She quickly learned where to find the cookie tins, which tins contained Spritz, and how to carry them to MorMor to open for her. Really, I have to say it: so darn cute!!!
Braydon went home for Monday-Tuesday for work commitments. Truly, that was a big “low” for us (Braydon having to go). But we spent those days settling in, skating, letting MorMor and MorFar spoil us, and (me) catching up on sleep. It turned out that there was actually something really nice about having a couple of days to just sort of be, to chill, to unwind before the real wind-up to Christmas began. Once Braydon came back the ball really got rolling with our trip to Bretton Woods, and then the arrival of Auntie Stina, Sadie, and Mark.
After a day of skiing at King Pine on Thursday, we had a private concert/workshop with a master didgeridoo player! It was very interesting. Turns out that K & O are pretty good at playing the didgeridoo. I couldn’t make a sound come out of it to save my life. Anyway… totally random, and totally fun, and totally set up by my parents (something only they would do— the masters of “mandatory fun”).
Christmas Eve Day brought the traditional hot dog and marshmallow roast. This has become such a part of our Christmas.
Then late that afternoon, the Letter To Santa (to be left for him later that night with the milk and cookies).
And then it was everyone-get-dressed-for-church and pose-by-the-Christmas-tree. Some traditions we just follow, even though none of us enjoy them. But I was determined to get a photo for my parents— it seems like the least we can do!— and so I once again made the kids do it despite their at-times active resistance. (You should see the 50-or-so outtakes it took to get this one photo!)
Then the centerpiece of Christmas Eve (and of Christmas, really): the Swedish Smorgasbord. MorMor spends weeks preparing this spread. It is unbelievable to me, really. I simply cannot imagine myself ever (ever!) being capable of pulling this off (although, frankly, if it wins over whatever future sons-in-laws I may have, perhaps I might will myself to do it – check out the way Braydon is loving on my mother in the photo below!). But she does it, and by doing it she passes something really meaningful about our heritage to the next generation. And it does not matter to her one bit that two of her four grandchildren have no Swedish blood whatsoever. (And it doesn’t seem to matter to them either—they eat smorgasbord like the good little grandsons of a Swedish MorMor that they are.) It was a true thrill to MorMor that this year Owen loved the sill (pickled herring) made by family friends. He even pushed away a plate of cake to eat sill instead. And called the family who had made it to pay his compliments. Totally interesting SIDENOTE to anyone who might be reading who is deeply ethnically Swedish with black adopted kids in their family (are there any such people other than us???): the sill that Owen loved came from a sill recipe from Marcus Samuelsson! I have now become completely fascinated with Marcus Samuelsson and his entire life story… but that is another story. Back to Christmas—
I just had to put this photo in here because I absolutely love it and I think it might be one of my top ten favorites of all time. Kyle reading the Christmas Story to Meera on Christmas Eve before heading to church:
Christmas Eve Service at The Freedom Church. Tradition, for us, with a capital “T.” Longtime blog readers will remember that K & O have been angels in the pageant ever since the year they were two. Despite the fact that all of the other boys are shepherds and sheep, K & O still choose to be angels (a gender-bending fact that I’m pretty proud of, actually). Meera, of course, just wants to be what K & O are going to be, so she’s an angel too. This year there we no outrageously hilarious incidents, which really says something about how far we’ve come and how much our boys are mellowing out. And so, without the crazy-funny stuff to laugh at, I was left with the space to really notice everything else that was going on right around me.
And there we were, on Christmas Eve, in the church I’ve always gone to on that night, with my three children around me, in the same exact costumes that I wore on Christmas Eve when I was their age. And suddenly, it was all clear to me: it is all worth it. And in that precise silent moment of that awesome realization and revelation, there was my husband kneeling down with our camera pointed right at me. And I knew, more than ever, that it is all good. Because how else could you explain that my soul-mate would have suddenly been moved to snap that shot right then and there? I won’t go on and on about it, I’ll just say that this photo (below) says a thousand words:
And this one says just shy of a thousand:
And this one too:
And so, with Christmas Eve contentment, we headed back to MorMor and MorFar’s for the annual reading of The Night Before Christmas.
Christmas morning was, as it is in the best of times, a flurry of that special only-once-per-year-kind-of-excitement. The sun barely coming up, the kids bursting at the seems, and the house overflowing.
There was something extra special about Meera this year. A two year old on Christmas morning is a precious thing.
You should have seen the looks on her face as she saw herself in the mirror with her “Tiana dress and Tiana doll FROM SANTA!” Here is just one of them:
Dreams do come true! Santa also left letters for K & O telling them that a drum-set and bow-and-arrow were waiting for them at home (photos taken after we got home).
And other dreams come true too!… Owen had been waiting for MorMor’s Christmas Morning Swedish Butterhorns all year long. He has no problem taking a break amidst present-opening for the butterhorns to be made (this year my mother made a total of three batches, and made a note to herself to make four batches next year… she confessed to me that in her Christmas cooking/baking this year she had used over 11 pounds of butter and at least 5 dozen eggs and she has no idea how she’ll manage it when the boys are sixteen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).
Christmas Day and the day after brought some serious fun and relaxation. (Big “high”: the boys’ present from MorMor and MorFar this year was a foosball table!) With all the wind-up over, it was all wind-down, which is all good.
And we did not complain when we had to stay an extra day because a blizzard hit. We drank a few more of MorFar’s incredible pomegranate martinis, and were just so thankful to have a belated White Christmas!
An extra day to play…
The chance to help with snow removal (major “high” for the boys—all three of them!)…
And the perfect ending to a truly God Jul.
We headed home on Tuesday, with a sweet stop in Worcester on the way to visit Grandpa Les.
Our trip was 11 days long. That’s a long time away from home for a family with young kids. There are highs and lows all mixed up together, but the highs way outweigh the lows. And so, we left MorMor and MorFar’s house/New Hampshire/New England (for some reason, for us, passing over the Tappan Zee bridge is always a symbolic reminder that we live in a whole other part of the world) knowing that –as long as we’re lucky enough to be able to— we’ll do it all again next year. And it will all – somehow, someway – be worth it. (A big huge thank you to MorMor and MorFar!)