Last night I went to my favorite Christmas party. I have been attending this party for 26 years, though it has been going on for much longer than that. In those years, I have missed it twice: once when my daughter was only three weeks old and once when that same daughter got sick (on me) on the way to the party. I love this party and not just because every single person brings their A game when it comes to the delicious dishes they bring. I come because the couple who host really understand what it means to welcome people into their family. You walk up to their door and light and joy billow out like there is just too much to contain it all inside. From the moment you walk in, you are swept up into these deep, warm hugs from everyone. They are not the “hello-glad-you-are-here-leave-your-coat-on-the-bed” side hugs. They are the full on “I-have-missed-you-and-I-can’t-wait-to-catch-up” bear hugs.
The house is decorated inside and out. Lights twinkle in the yard but the real magic is inside. An enormous Christmas tree stands in the living room bursting with ornaments and ribbon. Homemade candies and cookies are never more than an arm’s reach away. Pictures line the walls and not just their family pictures. These pictures tell the story of every family present. My heart sings when I walk around and remember the silly, giggling girls and squirming boys who sat on Santa’s lap -yes Santa comes to this party every year! It is so amazing to watch them all grow up. And even more amazing that they are still all here. These same little girls and boys are now bringing their boyfriends or girlfriends and some even their own families to the party. And that is a testament to how they feel about this family and this party. One was even snowed in at her university and couldn’t get a flight home so her dad drove all of the way across the state and back so she wouldn’t miss the party. That’s love right there on so many levels. This is definitely a family party. From babies to grandparents, you feel at home. You feel like family. There is something for everyone. The little ones are usually captivated by the Christmas village. Every open surface is covered with the Christmas village. Actually village does not do it justice. It is more like a Christmas metropolis- a quaint metropolis, but a metropolis none the less. Skiers and sledders dot the snow covered hills. A train snakes in and out of the tunnels past fire-heated houses and snow-capped businesses. Shoppers drag home their packages and trees. Dogs bark and frolic with skaters. Carolers sing festooned in their fur-lined mittens and muffs.
Over the course of the night, generations of party goers sit together and share. We share the milestones of the year. We share our hobbies, interests and plans. We share our celebrations and challenges. We share what is happening with children and grandchildren. We share a glass of wine, an amazing meal, and love for a special couple who really understand what it means to welcome people into their family. I am one of those they picked up along the way and welcomed, with my own family, into this extended family. I am so grateful for that. I have been blessed to meet such wonderful people who have had a hand in shaping my life. I’ve learned a lot from them all over the years, not the least of which is this: Love is the one thing you can give and give and give and it does not run out. In fact, it grows exponentially by giving it away. In so doing, you are growing your family.
I selected the photograph below because it embodies the love and joy of this party. Grandma is laughing with her granddaughters and my daughter. They were all being so silly. This was taken in 2004 and they were all at the party this year too- a little less squirmy but no less joyful!
(1/30 sec., f/2.7, 7mm, 64 ISO)