“Mom. Santa came. He did. He came!” were the first words I heard, bedside at 5:30am. Pulling her by arm and leg into bed between Pat and I, catching a glimpse of the three Disney princesses that adorn the front of her pink nightgown slide pass before my eyes, my response was, “How wonderful! but it is too early.” Thankfully the pumpkin pie fell back asleep and slept until nearly 7. (This is extremely late for her). The jelly bean finally had to be jiggled awake soon there after, as the excitement in those extra minutes had mounted to nearly uncontrollable levels. I leaned into the crib and whispered, “Merry Christmas. Santa came sweetie!” Bolting upright, she was instantly awake and rearing to go! Dev took Trey by the hand and led her to the railing that overlooks the family room and Christmas tree, bright with lights, in the early morning darkness. The tree was full with gifts and the stockings bulging with evidence that some do-gooders must live at this house. Treya lost her breath in a gasp as she witnessed the facts for herself. “L-fan, L-fan” she screamed as she spied an Elephant poised and ready for it’s first hug, certain it was meant for her. “And a Razor Scooter” yelled Devi, with a sort of knowing giggle, high pitched in her throat in excitement.
Pausing at the landing to sing a quick Happy Birthday to baby Jesus laying in the manger of the nativity, the girls picked up the pace, Devi jogged off toward the tree to see first hand what surrounded it’s slightly sagging boughs, followed by our bouncy gaited Trey, pony tails bobbing along . Treya went for the elephant, grabbed it-hugged it, and for her, having received few possessions to call her very own in her young life, Christmas was done. That set the tone for our Christmas morning spent leisurely opening and exploring each new gift. Papa and Gail joined us to watch the girls’ excitement, pausing for breakfast mid way through.
It is hard to believe that just one year ago, the unforgettable news we received, just two days before Christmas, was that we were India bound to meet our Sonalika. I marvel now at how we managed to get everything done and in order for that trip, smack dab in the middle of the holiday season. Recalling the boneless, headstrong and painfully shy child we soon met, I am in awe of her remarkable progress; appropriately stealing a lyric from a carol...What Child Is This?
Just hours before, she was the one toddling hand in hand beside her big sister, both in their holiday finest, to the pulpit for the Children’s message at church. There sat the youth pastor with a box - God’s gift to the world and inside was the baby Jesus. In comparison, last year, God’s gift to our family was this precious, once fragile, child, who now stood at that pulpit, bobbing and weaving to get a clear view of where we sat while wildly waving her arms and yelling “Hi momma!” at the top of her lungs, oblivious to the message he was trying to deliver, but overflowing with confidence that we belong together.
Dev is our attentive one, who politely listened to the message as the pastor explained about God’s gift of his son and all that that monumental event has done for us on earth, including bringing a Santa to us. He then randomly asked what the kids were hoping that Santa might bring them. While some asked for a specific toy, Dev replied, “I would like a live donkey and my sister asked for a live elephant!” which brought the house down in laughter.
Comic relief must run in the family as I attempted a smoking beef tenderloin once again this year - this time for a house full of 21 family members, our largest guest list yet, spanning three full sized tables sitting end to end. The youngest was Treya at nearly 3, and the oldest was Grams at 96! That fact alone, MADE my Christmas and fills my heart with joy.
Cranked up to 500 degrees I passed out towels for waving as the searing commenced. Somewhere along the line, just about the time everyone’s arms were about to fall off from fanning, the men, in pure Tim Allen style, fashioned a smoke remover out of my vacuum cleaner hose and packing tape. It got the job done, but I think may have rendered my hose unusable for the purpose it was intended, leaving the closet where it resides wafting with the smells of flavorful beef and melting plastic. I shutter to think what the inside of that greasy tube must look like now. None-the-less, the meat was cooked again to perfection (taking a slight bow) and every last morsel was consumed. Nearly blurry to me at her FAR end of the table Devi said, “I like meat, momma!” a statement, I dare say I never thought my vegetarian would spout, though I think she was using it primarily to facilitate getting the sour cream horseradish sauce into her mouth.
With the flurry of the day behind us and the rumble of the dishwasher scouring our once full plates clean, Pat and I sat on the couch...yes, exhausted. Throbbing feet up, and sipping one last glass of champagne we recounted the wonderful day. The reaction of the kids as they unwrapped an unexpected treasure, the jokes of the adults as we coveted our prize white elephant gifts won in exchange, the fellowship of our extended family together again and rubbing our agonizingly full bellies for comfort. At the end of this day of miracles, I think Treya said it best at bedtime - something I’ve never heard her say before. Clutching her elephant in the dimly lit room, she looked up at me from her crib with bright eyes and glowing white teeth wide in a smile saying, “Taya happy, Taya happy, Taya happy!”