The anticipation was the kind that brings to mind mugs of hot cider around a blazing fire with Mannheim Steamroller or Celtic Christmas accompaniment softly playing in the background as you tell stories of favorite Christmases past. It was all about seeing new babies and exchanging sentimental gifts that began with a grandmother’s stitching or the sketching of an old preacher’s pen. It was, in thinking ahead, about chicken and dressing and smoked barbecue and eggnog and strawberry pretzel salad. It was, in fact, in anticipation, the thing that binds families ever so tight and it was the makings of memories that you wish you could place in the minds of those in the house who are not yet old enough to make their own deposits in the long term memory accounts. All of this was the way it was in anticipation.
In reality, you ride for an eternity in the very, very “backest” part of the back of an eight passenger SUV while your two-year-old grandson wants to “hold Mammy’-sss-hand” in the middle part of the back. That’s a feat…let me tell you…when there’s a newborn and a stash of wrapped Christmas presents including a breakable 16 X 20 framed portrait of the newborn dressed in one of those sentimental “grandmother stitchings” —all of that in between you and the one who wants to hold your hand. In reality, there’s not much Mannheim, but there’s a lot of baby mayhem. In the real world, that jello strawberry salad is turning to soup as temperatures rise while we travel over the river and through the woods. Reality has those magical gift-giving times transformed into toddler cousins mutiny with a Star Wars saber and spankings over the refusal to say the magic word, “thank-you”.
But the outside temps were not the only ones rising. The most painful part of reality, happened on the way to the celebration in my son-in-law’s throat, little by little as he first “didn’t feel so great” and then, progressively, ‘thought he might have a fever” and then “was very, very cold.” “Burgers and Stuff” was the name of the place we could find open in Walnut, Mississippi where we finally, at long last, gathered around a table to eat an evening meal after those poor babies had traveled for eight hours. As luck would have it, Burgers and Stuff was right next door to Dollar General. (Well, that’s not really luck, I guess, since Dollar General has found a home on every corner in the Southeast in the past two years.) By this time, we were taking bets (not real bets, okay) on whether or not baby Colleyanna had a temperature. Glenn, the eternal optimist, was all about how her carseat was right above the rear heater. (Nevermind that stuff was coming out of her eyes…We had the burgers….she had the stuff, I guess.) Glenn went over to Dollar General and bought a thermometer. Sure enough, Colleyanna was up over 100 degrees and Ben was knocking on 103. Hannah was coughing non-stop and Ezra, who had already been on antibiotics for five days, was having the time of his life since neither parent felt like speaking, much less spanking. All of this was after Glenn had accidentally taken a sip from Ben’s cup when they switched seats so Ben could drive for a while.
Two hours and a drug store visit later, we checked the Giselbachs (minus Ezra) into a hotel room, to try and not spread the “cheer.” The rest of us proceeded to the sweet grandparents’ house, where I promptly discovered that my clothes had been left at home. Rolling with the punches, I washed a spot off the front of the hoodie I was wearing and hung it up to dry. The next morning, as I was about to put it on again, I discovered that neither Glenn nor I had brought deodorant. (Glenn needs that, you know.) The folks were still asleep, so I went looking in the upstairs bathroom, There it was in plain view on the counter: Old Spice deodorant.
Let’s just say that my skin is extremely allergic to whatever is in Old Spice. I’m two days out from that application and I still cannot fully extend my arms without some stout pain. Fast forward through breakfast, gift exchange, lunch preparation, lunch and pack-up time…all with Ezra in tow and all in time for the hotel check-out of our sick friends and you get an idea how much I used those arms (that were on FIRE) that morning
We’re back home. Ben has strep, Hannah has bronchitis, Colleyanna has ear infection and congestion and Ezra is still having the time of his life!
Actually, we all are. These are the times of our lives. Sometimes it’s not pretty, but it’s always blessed. Remember that blessing trail (http://thecolleyhouse.org/the-blessing-trail)? We traveled that path to visit relatives this weekend.
Here’s a few blessings from the trip. There are lots more.
1.Two parents/grandparents/great-grandparents who love us and love the Lord and couldn’t wait to meet Colleyanna (who bears their wonderful family name).
2. A sweet, healthy two-year-old who wants to hold Mammy’s hand!
3. A one-hundred-year-old hand-made dress from Colleyanna’s great, great, great grandmother for that big portrait that I was reaching over.
4. Plenty of food even if it did look a little worse for the journey.
5. Comfortable and available alternate lodging for the sick ones and enough money to pay for it.
6. The help of two sisters in Christ who are nurses, and that of a very kind pharmacist and a couple of urgent care centers.
7. Life in a time and place in which medical technology is advanced.
9. The technology of face-time. The hotel crowd did not totally miss the visit.
10. Lots of clothes…enough to make it a very rare thing to wear the same clothing for two days.
11. A daughter and even a son-in-law who want to scrunch up in our SUV so we can spend the driving time together. A family that’s close enough to share diseases.
12. Secret deodorant.
13. No strep for me…yet!
14. Diseases that are not terminal. So many for whom I am praying cannot say that.
15. Great, great, great grandmother’s stitching, but more profoundly and eternally important… Great Grandaddy’s preaching!
Happy Christmas! Merry Mayhem to you, too!