“Holly Jolly Christmas,” sung by Burl Ives, was echoing through the house – his singing just seemed to make everything happy.
The kids were decorating Christmas cookies, the tree was trimmed, the tiny little Dickens village was set up, stockings were by the fireplace, and Christmas was on its way.
But then it wasn’t.
My husband is an airline pilot — and just like for those who are married to firefighters, police or doctors — holidays are not guaranteed.
John was on reserve that December, which meant if he was called because a pilot was sick or couldn’t make the flight, he was responsible to fly it.
And just like that he was assigned a trip on December 23 that went into Christmas. He would be home late Christmas night.
I thought back to a joke my first husband, Ronnie Shakes, liked to tell. “My greatest desire is to die in December and wreck the holidays for my family,” he said and then added, “Should we open Ronnie’s present? He’s dead.”
What do I do about Santa Claus and the kids’ presents?
I’m still humming along with “Holly Jolly Christmas” when I realize all is really good in the world. I’m blessed with a husband, kids — and December 25 need only be a suggestion to celebrate Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, I took my three kids to a church service and we looked at “Baby Jesus.” The next day, a good friend invited us over for their Christmas brunch.
It was then that my normally passive, shy oldest child Shelby got into a fight with her friend Katya, who was also six.
Katya tried to tell Shelby it was Christmas Day.
“It is not. Santa comes tomorrow,” Shelby matter-of-factly told her.
Knowing that 6-, 4- and 2-year-olds don’t really look at calendars, I had simply moved Christmas by a day (to December 26), so that their dad would be home to celebrate with them.
Katya pointed out that Santa had given her presents, and that Shelby should have some, too. Shelby came to me, and I simply explained that Santa must have made an early stop in Culver City. That’s all it took, and everyone was happy again.
After my husband arrived home at about midnight on December 25, we were both awakened by the kids the next morning around 5 a.m. because “Santa had come.”
I don’t remember what Santa brought, but I remember the warmth of having us all together.
This year, I’m once again moving Christmas to January 1 – because Shelby, now 30, is celebrating Christmas at her boyfriend’s family house. One son is out of the country — and my husband is flying.
The tree is trimmed, the stockings are up, cookies are made and frosted, and the tiny village is once again lit.
The exact date doesn’t really matter, nor do the wrapped presents.
The real gift is the joy of spending the day, or any day, with people you love.
To CTN readers, have a “Holly Jolly Christmas!”
And to all — love and joy.