Holding Space

With Shelly Vaughn

Christmas Eve

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It’s so exciting waking up on Christmas Eve, even when you’re an adult getting ready for work.

I remember knowing every year as a kid that we would be going to Aunt Marlene’s that night for our gift exchange. And that was the big $10 one so it was always great!

My favorite gift ever, by the way, was Domino Rally, given by cousin Ryan (though we all know cousin Kim picked it out. Or maybe even my mom just bought it and wrapped it and handed it to them who gave it to me.) Whatever the case, it was awesome. And makes me smile every Christmas Eve remembering my aunt’s house with all of the family there. Taking our shoes off in the “fancy” living room where we only went to open presents. The “Home Interiors” windmill candle decoration that seemed to make whatever MLM scheme worth it. And Pap- sitting in his chair in the kitchen next to the tiny tv in the corner, never quite sure if he was paying attention to us or just trying to hear the tv. But he always seemed happy to ask about school and grades.

Downstairs we’d spend time in the half-finished basement playing games (or Domino Rally). The unfinished half was reserved for roller skating or playing school with Amy’s real school desk in the closet.

The point is, I don’t remember if Aunt Marlene’s windows had fingerprints or there was dust on picture frames. I never noticed if she and my mom (Dorothy M Caldwell) were hurried to prepare food or worried about making sure the tablecloth matched the napkins. None of that mattered to me. I remember my family. I remember feeling joy and love. I remember always looking forward to it. And I remember thinking I was so lucky because I had a beautiful Christmas Eve every year with the “Smith side”.

I have really tried to think about things like that this year. Knowing things don’t have to be perfect for my kids and their cousins to feel magic and loved. The crazy of each celebration is eventually balanced by peace- even if it’s after they go to sleep. The important things are spending time together, making memories, and enjoying the celebration of Jesus.

This Christmas Eve, I also can’t help but think of Mary. The soon-to-be mommy, with the immeasurable anticipation of a new baby she surely felt. I vividly remember the day before I had Olivia. I didn’t know for sure she would be coming the next morning, but I did know it was close. My walk to Burger King just to get moving and order a drink. Eating spicy wings. And every place I went I felt like telling people- “you realize my life is going to change drastically any day now”. Really- they knew. I was huge.

I was so excited and scared to push a human being out of me and into this world. And, no offense to her, but it was just Olivia. Imagine knowing you’re going to give birth to God’s son. The man who would save the world. Wow, that’s important stuff- making the day before even more anxiety-provoking.

Mary was one tough cookie.

So with my “stream of consciousness” Christmas Eve post, I take pause to remember Mary and respect how she must’ve been feeling. And another pause to remember all of my mom’s family who helped make my Christmas Eves so fun and memorable. Two very different, but very important things that affected my life all of these years later.

Here’s a photo from my cousin, Kayla’s, recent wedding, which includes just a few of those amazing people. It’s minus another generation, but they’re there in spirit because we talked about all of them. Amy’s there in spirit, too.

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