Soaking it all in

A few years ago, my brother-in-law, Josh, said an interesting thing to me at Christmas.

He looked at me, out of the blue, and said he’d been watching me sitting there while the family was opening up presents.

“I’m just wondering what you are thinking about, it’s like you are writing a column in your head,” Josh said. “Is that how it works? You find yourself sitting in a situation that you want to write down, so you just soak it in so you remember it?”

I didn’t realize it until he said it, but yes, I was just sitting there, soaking it in. I guess I’ve always had a habit of subconsciously doing that – if I’m in a happy situation, I tend to tuck it away somewhere in my brain so I can access it at a later date when I really need it.

Once Josh said that, I became more acutely aware of our surroundings.

What did I hear?

Lots of noise.

My family is pretty big. With us “original kids,” our spouses and the “next round of kids,” we now number 21.

Considering each of us “original kids” is pretty loud in our own right, because we learned to be that way competing for attention while growing up . . . that takes the decibel levels to a new height.

Fortunately, we all seemed to marry pretty sane and somewhat volume-controlled people . . . so that controls the audio damage to some extent.

Kids are just kids and with them will come sound . . . but I think my siblings and I are really the source of the noise.

I heard political commentary, stuff about cattle prices, gossip about the old neighborhood, stories from the last year and memorable recollections from long ago.

What did I see?

I saw a whole lot of wrapping paper as the little ones ripped open their gifts of dolls and miniature farm equipment.

I saw grown women fighting over the annual purse exchange and grown men sharing a bottle of Crown.

I saw logs burning in the fireplace (literally, we are at my brother’s house) and snow coming down outside.

I saw a kitchen full of dirty dishes and an entryway so full of boots and shoes that a visitor surely wouldn’t have room to walk if they chose to show up right about then.

I saw hugs and smiles, people laughing, people arguing, people having fun, people enjoying each other.

What did I taste?

I tasted Motanna’s chili and Maria’s taco soup and Crystal’s pinwheels and Jodi’s chicken wings and Kelly’s pecan pie.

I tasted Maria’s newfound love of wine (she just then discovered she likes it), Motanna’s famous slush and beer from one of the coolers sitting out on the deck. Kelly and I enjoyed Skinnygirl margaritas . . . mindful that indulging in that drink in such a crowded house just leads to hot flashes.

What did I feel?

Besides the hot flashes, I felt the sense of belonging. These are the people I grew up with, the people I shared space with in a tiny house growing up, the people I discovered the world with.

Some of these people were gathered up along the journey . . . and although they haven’t been here since the very beginning, it sure feels like they were.

I felt my parents’ presence in all those little ones. Sure, no one from the “next round of kids” ever met our folks . . . but I can see Mel and Cheri in that bunch. They are in their eyes, their mannerisms, the way they talk, the way they move.

And I felt happiness because I think we are all finally pretty OK. Sure, life’s not simple, and boy, we have had our share of trials over the years. But it kind of feels that, right now, things are good and we’ve made it through a heck of a lot of rain.

So this Christmas, I am going to take a moment to let it all soak in. These moments are actually what we will someday call the “good old days.” These moments will change over time and life will throw at us what it will.

But for now, I’m going to make a pointed effort to really appreciate what we have at this moment.

That’s what I wish for all of us, all of you. That we take the time to move beyond the food and gifts and “have to do” lists . . . to just sit back and look at the people around us, enjoying all our flaws and perfections and talents and shortcomings. Be thankful for all those boots and shoes in the entry way. Enjoy all the colorful wrapping paper cluttering up the living room. Relish all those dirty dishes. Listen to the noise. Taste the flavors that are specialties of people we love. Feel the warmth of a hug.

To all of you, have a very Merry Christmas . . . and don’t forget to soak it all in.


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