My Real Life

December 26, 2013


Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 4:22 pm

I’ve documented, here, many times, the fact that I am the only child of two only children.

That, often left to my own devices, my imagination ran wild and I kept myself busy with stories in my head, books in my hands, and a pen at my fingertips.

People will say, “It must be very different for you to have four kids,” and they are right.  I have no frame of reference for so very many of the things that come with having more than one child, but I’ve learned as I’ve gone, and I’m still figuring it out with each new experience.

People will also say “How wonderful for you to have married into such a big family!” and they are absolutely right.  However, I’m not sure anyone can really understand exactly how different it is, unless they’ve been there.

Christmas is the perfect example.

When I was a kid, I’d wake up on Christmas and I’d have to wait until my Grandparents came over before we could open presents.  They lived a few towns away and weren’t early risers, so presents weren’t really opened until around 11 or 12, and that’s only if my Dad wasn’t preaching that morning.  If my Dad had to preach, presents were dealt with in the afternoon.

When my grandparents got there, my Mom pulled out the tray of assorted danishes and pastries, and they drank coffee and chatted while I wolfed down my danish and sat, waiting for them to finish.

When they were finally ready, I’d distribute the gifts to the people to whom they belonged and we would, in a very orderly fashion, open our gifts.

Dad would open a gift.

Mom would open a gift.

Grandma would open a gift.

Grandpa would open a gift.

I’d open a gift.

Dad would open a gift.

Mom would open a gift.

Grandma would open a gift.

Grandpa would open a gift.

And on and on and on.

When we were done, the adults would begin chatting again and I’d start reading.

Eventually, my grandparents would leave and I’d keep reading, and my parents would join me, in front of the fireplace, in the living room, with their new books, and they’d read too.

We’d read and restoke the fire and read and read and read, and the house would be silent.

One…or two…or all of us…would doze in and out, throughout the day, and then we’d wake up and keep reading.

By the end of the day, my Mom and I would have finished at least two of the books we got for Christmas and my Dad would be halfway done with one of his.

Dad snoozed a little more than Mom and I did.

And that was Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong…I actually loved it.

It was what I knew and it was warm and cozy and comfortable.

Christmas today is a little different.

Yesterday, Monkey in the Middle woke up at 3:15.  I know this because I heard him get out of bed, go down the stairs, then nothing for about 5 minutes, then he came back upstairs, directly to my side of the bed to let me know that Santa had come.

I mumbled, “Oh, that’s so exciting!  Go back to bed,” and he padded off to his sister’s room, where he and his sister and brother were having a Christmas Eve sleepover and heard him tell them the same story.

Five minutes later, he arrived, back in my room, crying.

“Monkey Girl said I’ve ruined Christmas!” he sobbed.

“Huh?  How?”

“She said that because I went downstairs and saw some of the things sticking out of the stockings and told them that I’ve ruined the whole thing.”

“She’s 12.  Don’t sweat it.  Go back to bed.”

“No, I don’t want to snuggle with someone who said I ruined Christmas.  Can I sleep here?”

So, Mr. Knees and Elbows crawled into bed with Real Man and I and as I tried to go back to sleep, he flipped and flopped, completely unable to go back to sleep, thinking about the presents he had seen under the tree.

Which meant that I was unable to go back to sleep.

Around 6, he asked “When can we wake you guys up?” and I said “7:00” and  he went back to his sister’s room and the three of them whispered, all sins forgiven, for an hour.

At 7, on the nose, all three of them came in, to my side of the bed, as always, and said “It’s time!!!” and so Real Man and I got out of bed while the big kids grabbed Tiny, and down we headed.

They went through their stockings, opened their presents, cheered, exclaimed, clapped and said many thanks for what they got.

Real Man and Monkey in the Middle went to begin assembling MitM’s new bubble hockey (minus the bubble) game, Baby started working on his Dr. Who Lego set, Monkey Girl began playing her new DS game, and Tiny played with his US map puzzle, while I began trying to erase all evidence of our Christmas together as I prepared for Christmas: Part Deux – My Parents.

The morning went on with the assembly of the hockey game taking a full two hours, but everything was cleaned up, and my Mother showed up at noon, armed with presents.

My father, who had to preach because some things never change, was supposed to meet her here around 12:15, but the church custodian was ill, so my Dad had to stay after and do all the clean up after the service, including the washing of all of the communion glasses.

If you aren’t Presbyterian, you may not know that our communion consists of drinking out of little, tiny glasses…one per customer.  The Christmas Day service is well attended.  My Dad didn’t show up here until 1:20.

Once again, there was present opening, thanks given, and then the boys went to hide their most precious gifts, (Hess trucks and hockey game) so they wouldn’t be damaged in Christmas: Part Three – The Cousins.

Around 2, my in-laws started arriving.  By 3:15, there were 27 of us in the house.

There was eating, laughing, talking, arguing (because there are 16 grandchildren and it’s bound to happen), making up, and just relaxing.

We sat and ate lasagna and meat sauce and salad and bread and cookies and pie and chocolate and drank wine and beer and soda and cider and just were together.

At some point, my father-in-law gives out presents to the kids.  He tries to do it in age order, but that never quite works out and it’s like a mosh pit of wrapping paper and sweaty little bodies squealing with delight, hugging Grandpa, and trading toys and playing with everyone else’s stuff.

At one point, I looked over at my father and his eyes were wide with wonder at the sheer…activity…of it all, but his eyes were wide above a broad smile at the evidence of love and familiarity in the room.

So, Christmas today is very different from the Christmas of my childhood, and as I said, it is the best example of the differences between my childhood and the childhood of Real Man, for whom yesterday was his typical childhood Christmas.

And while I remember those Christmases of my youth very fondly, and admit to escaping to sit on my bed, yesterday, for a minute or two just to get my head together while everyone cavorted in the kitchen below, I’m so happy that this is the experience that my children get to have.

To be in the presence of such love…such big, big love…and to get to grow up completely surrounded by family at every turn…that’s Christmas and it’s so, so good.




  1. I still try, unsuccessfully, to get everyone to open their presents one at a time, so we can all see what each of us got. 🙂

    Comment by madhen — December 26, 2013 @ 4:41 pm | Reply

    • 🙂 It was much easier with just the 5 of us, as opposed to the 27 of us! 🙂

      Comment by Amy — December 27, 2013 @ 8:53 pm | Reply

  2. I loved reading every bit of this.

    Comment by BadParentingMoments (@BPMbadassmama) — December 27, 2013 @ 12:24 am | Reply

    • Thanks, Bethany. That means a lot coming from someone whose writing I admire so much!

      Comment by Amy — December 27, 2013 @ 8:52 pm | Reply

  3. Wonderful post and insight into what an only child christmas was like. I too have fond memories of my childhood christmas surrounded by love and family and presents. I’ve enjoyed my nieces and nephew and extended family children over the years. Being with young children, for me, is still the best Christmas experience ever. Loved it when the kiddos were little. They just sparkle!

    Comment by Sheryl Seyer — December 27, 2013 @ 10:42 am | Reply

    • Thanks, Sheryl! The one Christmas that stands out was the year we came out to Ohio and got to see all of you on Christmas!

      Comment by Amy — December 27, 2013 @ 8:51 pm | Reply

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