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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Norman Rockwell Moments

Four years ago we bought a piano.  I had grown up with a piano in my house, taking lessons for five years, and wanted my children to learn too.  When the first Christmas came I pulled out our Christmas songs and called everyone over to the piano.  "Let's sing some Christmas songs," I insisted, "it will be fun!"  Scenes from all of the family Christmas movies that ever had people happily joining together around a piano with smiles, harmony, and fuzzy camera lenses paraded through past my eyes as the children reluctantly abandoned the toys and games they had been happily playing at thirty seconds before.

Kathleen was five, Sophia three, Edwin two, and Joseph in bed.  I banged out the first few chords and bravely dove in to "Hark the Herald Angels Sing."  Kathleen, who could read, followed along hesitantly.  Sophia, not yet literate, made it through exactly five words before giving up and sneaking back to her baby doll.  Brandon wrestled Edwin to the couch and sang every ten words or so in between changing holds on Edwin.  

After a few songs I put the piano book away, fuzzy Christmas feelings scattering in the reality of actual family life that involves children, not actors paid to smile in pretend family love.

This past Sunday afternoon we gathered for our Sunday afternoon family game.  We've reached an awkward spread of ages; the girls are old enough to play more complicated games like Clue, Catan Junior, and Enchanted Forest (Brandon hates that game).  The boys only like games that involve destruction and loud noises - Jenga - and those for a maximum of fifteen minutes.  Brandon has his own treasured family visions regarding games, and wants everyone to play together.  

While rummaging around for something everyone could enjoy, Brandon hit upon name that song.  
As Thanksgiving has come and gone and our decorations are up, I suggested playing with Christmas songs.  Brandon worked up a point system - three notes is five points, five notes three - and the first round started.  Sophia stole "Oh Christmas Tree" from Kathleen and then we all sang it together.  Edwin stole "We Three Kings," and Joseph guessed "Jingle Bells" on his own.  

After each song everyone gathered around the tree, enthusiastically singing the words they knew and making up the ones they didn't.   We sang as the Christmas lights glowed softly next to the piano, bringing thirty-three Christmases' magic to the room.  We all sang songs of Christ's birth, gathered together in our family, one of the countless families that His coming brought eternity to.  

Eventually the boys wandered off and we finished with "Silent Night" before finishing off the last pumpkin pie for dinner/dessert (pumpkin is a vegetable) and regular life started again.  Joseph smacked Edwin with an improvised sword.  Eleanor dumped her milk on the floor.  Kathleen refused to give a toy back that she had stolen.  Everyone got sent to bed sooner than was strictly necessary.

Children are a lot of work, much much much more work than pleasure.  They come into the world helpless and clueless and parents have the daunting task of turning them into people that will be capable of rearing children of their own.  This work is good and necessary - without it everything in the world would stop in a very short time.  But it isn't exactly sitting on a beach in Tahiti.  Then again, nothing that is worth anything is sitting on a beach in Tahiti.  Brandon hated the quote hanging on his parent's wall by Goethe, "It is not doing the things we like to do, but liking the thing we have to do that makes life blessed."

But every now and then, those brief moments come that give us a glimpse into eternity, together as a family.  Everyone is in harmony, working or singing or playing together, and the world in that moment, in that small space, is perfect.  I am more than myself, Brandon and I are more than a couple, and all of the work and worry and long nights and frustrating times are paid off in the one perfect moment where we are a family.  Those moments come rarely, and their rarity brings infinite value to them.  When I think of an eternity with my family, the thing that is most precious to me in the world, I would trade literally anything for that.  I will change diapers, I will wipe noses, I will dry tears, I will wash dishes, I will stay up nights, I will break up fights, I will clean up vomit, and I will probably never take that vacation in Tahiti.  Nothing is too dear to give up.

This, of course, is hard to remember in the middle of fights happening while dishes have to be washed with a pause to change diapers.  It's always easy to see the goal on the straightaways; it's the curves that life throws you that make it hard to see there from here.  But in those times I can remember our perfect Sunday evening of love, Christmas, and singing.  And I will keep traveling down that road.  Because the end is worth it.


Tammy and Alvin said...

Awesome post! Beautifully said!

Tammy and Alvin said...

Awesome post! Beautifully said!