Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Happy Half-Christmas

“Christmas, children, is not a date.  It is a state of mind.” ~Mary Ellen Chase

“Christmas makes me happy no matter what time of year it comes around.”  ~Bryan White

Half-Christmas has arrived.

Two days ago, the kids and I finished the puzzle below, complete with eighteen hidden wolves.  As we did so we talked about how my parents had sent the puzzle to us for Christmas of 2011 (doing a puzzle over the Christmas break is a tradition we have started, and that year they were kind enough to support the habit).  Because the package actually arrived after Christmas, and we were already trying to pack up and get ready for furlough, we never even opened the puzzle.  Until now.

Maybe it was the snow depicted on the puzzle, or the talk of the holidays, but the kids wanted to know how much longer until Christmas.  Andie pulled out the calendar and tried to figure out how many days had transpired since the last one. 

“What’s 31 plus 28 plus 31?”

Seriously?  You just finished Algebra, right?

“And then add 30 …”

Don’t forget the, uh, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 … six days after Christmas in December.

Short story, she figured out that the very next day, Tuesday, was exactly half a year out from Christmas Eve, which means today, Wednesday, is half a year out from Christmas.

Happy Half-Christmas!

We joked for a few minutes about how a half-Christmas celebration should look and sound.

… On the fourth day of half-Christmas my true love gave to me, two calling birds, one-and-a-half French hens, one turtle dove, and a partridge--.

At that point the kids had been out of school for a full six days, which apparently is long enough for full boredom to set in.

“We should decorate!  Mom, can we decorate?”


“We should put up half a Christmas tree … and bake Christmas cookies …”

Then they asked if we could invite our close family friends – who happened to be leaving for a year furlough the very next day, today - on half-Christmas, thank you very much - to come over and celebrate with us … since we were unable to spend last Christmas with them because of our furlough, and we wouldn’t get to spend this next Christmas with them because of their furlough.

Plus we needed their signatures on our holiday table cloth.

And thus the planning began.  Tuesday we spent the better part of the day decorating (lights around half of the front door, half a wreath, half a tree with half a paper star on top, half-boxes (open on one side) wrapped in holiday paper, half a nativity scene.  Then we baked cut-out sugar cookies … stars, trees, angels, gingerbread men, stockings … all cut in half prior to baking, of course.

We even made faux snow in a bowl.  Decorations courtesy of Andie.  

"So no one thinks it's coconut."  :)

Our friends came over after dinner and we served homemade eggnog – half a glass per person.  As the Christmas music played in the background, we signed the tablecloth, frosted and sprinkled half-sugar-cookies and chatted, trying to ignore the fact that we wouldn’t see each other again for nearly 400 days. 

These are the same friends who have become “aunt” and “uncle” to our kids, and to whose kids we have become the same.  They cared for Evan when Paul and I were in Thailand in 2011.  And as if that wasn’t enough to prove their loyalty and friendship, they looked after our goofball dog for much longer than they bargained for while we were on furlough.

And they didn’t even remind us of our extreme indebtedness … at least not very often.

After an hour or so of cookies and ‘nog, their just-graduated 18-year-old son who affectionately treats my children like a younger brother and sister and even cuddles on the dog (when he’s not painting her, that is) stood to leave.  His mother had been told to expect that each evening during Cry Week the graduates would have a party of some kind or other, “with whoever is left,” hence the 8pm departure from our chronologically displaced holiday festivities. 

I don’t blame him.  I've been to more exciting parties, and I'm old.

But as I watched him walk out the door, knowing that it would likely be much longer than 400 days before we would see him again, I felt a wave of sadness.

Seeing as I don’t do goodbyes well, I sent him off with a “take care” and “keep us posted on how you’re doing - Facebook, Facebook, Facebook.”  He smiled at the reference to one of his recent status updates.

This may have been our last “holiday” with him, but I’d sure be appreciative if he would, someday, plan his wedding around our furlough schedule.

And if you do, ‘Siah, I’ll promise to make you a batch of homemade eggnog, and to let it chill longer than seven hours.

And you can even have a full glass.  :)

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(Updated 13 April 2013)