I saved the best for last: Lying on the living room floor for an hour and a half on Christmas Eve with all my teenage brothers and sisters scattered around me, listening to my mom read "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."
This is my favorite Christmas story times ten. It is laugh-out-loud funny until the last few pages and then, no matter how many times I read it, I always tear up at the end. I was around fifteen when my mom first brought it home on Christmas Eve and invited all her teenage kids to listen to her read. You can imagine our initial response... and to this day I think the only reason we agreed to humor her was because it was Christmas Eve and we didn't want to hurt mom's feelings. But within a few pages I think every one of us, to a person, was sold. After all, the story is about a family of stringy haired, unharnessed little kids wreaking havoc on a church Christmas pageant. I was expelled from our church nursery at two years old (for biting) and suspended from Primary at seven years old (for sassing) and so let me assure you the autobiographical notes of this book run deep! But just for the record, unlike the characters in the story I never smoked cigars in the ladies room or suggested that Mary ought to have named her baby Bill instead of Jesus. But I could imagine my step-brother Ryan doing those things!
Christmas season makes me want to reach back in time and bring back all the good things about holidays past and insert them into my current life, showing my own children what the best Christmases were like when I was growing up. Circumstances and situation have changed from year to year, but I lean hard on the tried and true traditions that have brought so much joy into my family for years and years. I let my girls help me make treats to take to our neighbors. I insist that they participate in the lost art of Christmas caroling, which apparently has become something embarrassing over the last decade or so. (If you're worried your kids are becoming either too image conscious or too bashful in social situations, just set them out on your neighbor's porch and make them sing Silent Night at the top of their lungs. It's amazing how quickly little kids shed their inhibitions, which is an ability that ranks at the very top of my list of life skills I hope my children will learn). Just last night I finished reading the final chapter of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and my older girls laughed so hard that I had to hush them, lest they waken their little sister. And as I read the final paragraphs and started to get choked up my girls sat up in their beds and looked at each other. Mom, are you...crying?
The point of this post isn't to make you stare wistfully into your computer screen wishing you had more of that Christmas magic that is so abundant at the Gillespie House. Just this week alone I've had a husband working until midnight, my eight year old crying in her room during her birthday party, strep throat, and a child who has misbehaved so often that she is positive she is getting coal this year. It isn't always roses, or shall I say poinsettias. But those brief, scattered moments of hilarious laughter are what justify the chaos and exhaustion of the holidays.
I just re-read what I've written above and I'm fully aware that my conclusion is redolent of some sort of sneaky marketing ploy to get you to buy The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and I totally wish I'd set up some sort of commission contract based on this post. So let me just end by saying, if you want to know what happens at the end, you've got to buy the book!