You have been on my mind non-stop these past several days. I have been replaying every Christmas with you up until your last... December 2012.
All day on Christmas Eve I simultaneously choked back tears and smiled so big it hurt - which is a great way to describe my life every day. I know you were there through the day... holding my hand and patching up the holes in my heart with Christmas memories of you.
The morning started with a lot of excitement - the last door of Brian's LEGO advent calendar! The two of us had such a good time all month building parts that ended up creating a fun, winter city scene. I also added a Hershey Kiss behind each door - and even let Brian eat it with his breakfast. Why not. You only get to celebrate Christmas once a year - and life is short, as we know. I am sure you know just how thrilled Brian was with those kisses!
Then it was the hunt for "Scout" - our Elf on the Shelf. Christmas Eve is his last day with us before he flies back to the North Pole to help Santa with Christmas! Brian suddenly remembered that he is always on the Christmas tree on the last day - and he was right!
Hope spent the day in her swanky Christmas sweater from Granny!! Do you remember that singing Elmo in the Christmas stocking? That was from Granny to you and Brian several years ago! Hope loves it as much as you did. She spends most of her days sprinting to the Christmas tree to attempt (or succeed) to swipe ornaments and dancing and kissing that Elmo. It makes her so happy!
By mid-afternoon, it was time to get dressed for Church. We decided to go to the youth mass and were determined to be early to get a good seat. But first... pictures by the tree! Beforehand, Brian wanted to talk to me privately. "Mom - if I'm a really good boy during pictures and smile really nice, can I get a treat?" Well - you know that I'm all about a good bribe. And I very much appreciated his salesman like approach! This little "take a picture of me holding this fragile ornament!" was totally his idea! You know he's always been a charmer, Gavin!
But first up on the bench was little Miss Hopi Doo. Brian stood behind me with Elmo, of course. And Daddy stood to Hope's left ready to catch her if she decided to dive off the bench.
I was flooded with memories of photo shoots with you in front of this tree - or anywhere, really - where we had to go through the same routine!
As it turns out, Hope is just as photogenic as you were.
Next up was your buddy, Brian. He's so close to losing his first tooth!
He has been so excited for Christmas and it's contagious.
He had a Christmas Shop in school where he was able to go shopping for the important people in his life. He spent time choosing gifts especially for Daddy, me, Hope and Granny. On Christmas Eve he made sure to remind me to get out those secret gifts so he could distribute them the next day. He's so thoughtful!!
Your last Christmas with Brian is an easy memory to conjure. You had taken your (miraculous!!) first steps just weeks before and Brian was one of your biggest cheerleaders. As usual, you didn't even care that much about your presents. You were always so thrilled to watch your little brother enjoy his! When you died, I remember thinking about all of the moments and all of the holidays you enjoyed together - and it broke my heart that Brian wouldn't have that anymore. Wouldn't have you anymore.
But then Hope arrived.
Wow. Within minutes of meeting her, Brian was in love. When I look at this picture of the two of them on her first Christmas I am filled with so much emotion. So much has changed in this first year with Hope...
...except the love between the two of them.
Hope arrived just in time.
We set up our tripod for the family shot. That's when one of us pushes the button - runs to sit down - and then we hope for the best. We got lucky this year! It's kind of a miracle that Hope and Brian are both looking at the camera!!
Do you remember what we used to do for you, Gavin? We would set up a tiny DVD player and put on your favorite "Little Einstein" movies that always made you smile. I like to think that you were behind the camera last night capturing your brother and sister's attention! If so, thank you.
We got to church early, but not as early as we had hoped. It was unbelievably packed. Daddy dropped us all off in the rain at the door and he ended up having to park in a neighborhood around the corner from the church parking lot! There were no seats to be found so we stood in the vestibule with a LOT of other people. There were a few seats by the front door where we camped out. Well, one of us would sit while the other would follow Hope as she walked and walked, checking everything and everybody out. She sat for one brief moment and we all said AMEN!
We got home and Daddy made a delicious dinner. And we all said amen, again!
Brian dictated his letter to Santa to me and then he signed his name and Hope's.
We left out iced Rice Krispie treats and Pizzelles... and carrots for the reindeer. The way I saw it, Santa gets traditional cookies all night long. Rice Krispie treats are unique! They would make us stand out! (In other words, Mommy didn't make cookies this year.)
Brian and I went outside (in balmy 61 degree weather!) and sprinkled "Santa dust" on the front walk. He made it in school with oatmeal flakes and glitter! It's like leaving breadcrumbs for Santa and the reindeer so they can see the glitter from the sky and be led right to our front door.
Santa always knows to come through our front door. The fireplace has been blocked off and unused ever since that fun day when I started a fire without opening the flue. I was actually pregnant with you when that happened, Gav! It was a fun way to get to know our friendly neighborhood firemen! And hey, you need to get over that first big homeowner's insurance claim at some point, right? As it turns out, the front door works well for Santa - lucky for me.
You're not going to believe this, Gavin - but we heard Santa's bells outside of your old bedroom. Do you remember the first year we heard them?!?
Well, here's what happened last night: Brian was already in bed and Daddy was spending a little extra time saying goodnight when suddenly I heard the bells outside! I went racing upstairs and burst into the room - "I hear the bells! Open the curtains! Open the window!" Brian jumped out of bed so fast and was over to the window in a half a second. He couldn't believe his luck!!!
After listening for a while, he pronounced "He sounds close - I better get to bed." He tugged on his invisible string to say goodnight to you and he let you know that tomorrow was Christmas. And then he hopped into bed.
Daddy and I got to work helping Santa. One thing we didn't assemble ahead of time (because its size made it too hard to hide!) was a basketball hoop and stand. As he worked on that, I was happy to spend some time in silence with you by the tree while Christmas carols played softly in the other room. I carefully placed the gifts and it seemed that each time I bent to put one down I would catch a glimpse of one of your ornaments. How can this be our second Christmas without you? So much has happened in the last year and eight months - yet it feels like last week that we held you for the last time.
As I stood there, admiring the tree all ready for the big morning reveal, "Silent Night" came on. The timing couldn't have been more perfect. All day long I had been choking back the tears - but hearing that song at that time seemed like such a clear sign from Heaven that I just couldn't keep it in anymore. It felt like you were sending me a reminder - the boost I needed to get through this Christmas without you - that all IS calm. And all is bright.
I believe you.
I feel you.
I miss you.
Merry Christmas, Bugaboo.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace, sweet boy...
Sleep in Heavenly Peace.