Christmas Eve dawned and found me over-tired, nervous about finishing my gifts and horribly concerned for my grandpa.
What's a girl to do when she needs a little Christmas cheer? A little public apron-wearing will usually do the trick.
My friend Becky and her family have lots of orange trees. Their oranges are particularly sweet this year. She brought me a bucket of them and those oranges gave me the wild idea to make fresh-squeezed orange juice for Christmas breakfast. So, I donned my cheery cherry apron - it's red and green, so it's perfectly Christmasy - and Chris and I took the kids out to the orange grove.
Aside from stepping in a few ant piles, it was entirely delightful to be outside on that beautiful day, gathering warm globes of sunshine-in-a-peel into my apron.
We had a few errands still to run. You know those last-minute things? We forgot white candles for our Advent wreath, batteries for my camera and white chocolate for the peppermint bark. But I was running out of knitting time. So I knitted in the car on those blasted legwarmers, holding a couple of oranges (not the juice ones) that were destined to be an afternoon snack, a couple of Lakeland Limes (I can't find a decent link to show you what these are - but they're real, I promise. They look like tangerines, but are nice and sour) and my knitting.
I tried to take a few pictures of us in Publix, just to prove that I was wearing the apron out and about. My husband had a hard time understanding why we were doing this, but my kids just rolled their eyes, knowing that it was for the blog.
Once we were home and the oranges were washed, the juicing began. We used an antique juicer that my mom had at her house. I know we have an electric one somewhere, but this was entirely fun and very beautiful to use.
The juice was so tasty that it was tough to save it for Christmas morning. Really tough.
My knitting deadline was looming over my head, though, and I had only finished the slippers for Emma. I still had two-thirds of a legwarmer to go and a hat for my hubby. I had maybe done an inch or so of the hat. Hardly a start. I had thought I'd work on it a few rows at a time, sitting at my desk at work. But work had been too busy. I thought I'd work on it between batches of cookies on Christmas Eve. But Chris had been so attentive and so present in the house that I hadn't been able to even sneak one row.
Desperation brought me to this point: I faked a bath. Really.
I told him I needed a nap in the bathtub (sometimes I do this) and to wake me up in 30 minutes by knocking on the door. I snuck the ball of black wool and silk and my set of size 6 double-pointed needles into the bathroom. I ran the water. I actually sat in the bath with the ball of yarn on the floor, hands hung over the edge of the tub, knitting three and purling two, knitting three and purling two, row after row for 30 minutes. Until the knock came and I hid it in the shirt I had been wearing and snuck the hat back into the bottom of my knitting bag.
It was that bad, people.
Why had I bought sport weight yarn for this? If I had only gone with something worsted! This daggum hat was taking forever! It seemed like, no matter how many rows I knitted, it was still only two inches long!
But Christmas Eve church service was just an hour away and I had two children to dress and press and myself to fix and preen. Chris would have to take care of himself.
And we made it. We were more on time than ever for the Christmas Eve service at the Lutheran Church. Why there? It's where my family gathers. My uncle used to be the pastor there and my mom's extended family all attend there. It makes my grandparents so happy to have everyone in the same building to worship on Christmas Eve. This year especially.
But it's beautiful.
If you have never been part of a Christmas Eve candlelight service, I highly recommend it. Carols are sung and a message reminds you of what really happened - why we celebrate Christmas, even if it didn't happen in December. Even if trees came from pagan traditions. In spite of Rudolph and the way we confuse Santa and Jesus.
There was a procession of Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus, and to my surprise, they were represented by Nick and Candace and their precious new girl Natalie. (Candace? I took some pictures. Send me your email, will ya? I won't post them here, since I didn't ask.)
And the lights go out, and the candles are lit, passing the light from the Christ candle in the Advent wreath to the candles of the ushers, who carry it from aisle to aisle. And the light is passed down the aisles from person to person. And before you know it, we are singing Silent Night, in four-part harmony, by candlelight. I wanted to take pictures for you. But some things are too sacred. Some things should be experienced. I cried. I always do. But this year, all of the past week just welled up into my eyes and I couldn't stop it.
We filed out of the sanctuary and went on to practice another tradition. We go out for a very nice dinner on Christmas Eve, all dressed up from church. Usually, it's just Chris and me and the kids with my parents. But this year, Grandma joined us and my brother Jon and his wife Sarah. It was such a nice pause. No knitting in my lap (both recipients of the unfinished gifts were at the table) and no cookies in the oven. Just my family and a tasty dinner.
We headed home to get the kids into bed. Chris started putting the presents under the tree and I set the table for Christmas breakfast. I wanted to work on his hat, but he was awake. I wanted to work on the legwarmers, but I needed to switch to the needles that I was using for Chris' hat. So I just waited. I watched the candles in our Advent wreath burn down, as the season of waiting drew to a close.
Tomorrow, they'd be replaced with white candles, in honor of the Pure, Spotless Lamb that was born for us. I realized that the season had passed too quickly. That my nose had been in my projects and my head had just been getting us from one place to the next with the right equipment in tow. That my heart had just been suspended, waiting for its moment to reflect on the season and its turn to find the magic of the season. Sure, there had been moments of magic. But still...I don't know. It was an odd one, this Christmas season. Not like the others.
Finally, around two o'clock, Santa went to bed.
I told him I'd be joining him soon. I just needed to finish that legwarmer.
I really just needed to finish his hat so I could get the legwarmers onto the right needles and wrap them up.
I was sure that they would be the only unfinished gift under the tree.
Boy, was I wrong.
I never did make it to bed on Christmas Eve, and I never did finish that hat. Chris would be waking up at six, I knew that much. And I hurried and hurried. I was so close. At five minutes till six, I was heading into the decreases at the top of the hat - the shaping that makes the top part round. That means I only had about fifteen rows to go, each of them consisting of progressively less and less stitches. I figured I could sneak into the bathroom and tell him I was washing my face, finish it up and still have it under the tree. Forget about the legwarmer. "I'll just wrap the one I already finished," I thought recklessly.
And then I dropped a stitch.
I dropped a stitch that unraveled about three rows back.
And there was no recovering from that.
For the first time ever, I didn't finish in time for Christmas. I know there's a personal lesson in there. You can read between the lines. I sure have. It will be different next year - maybe.