When I was growing up, our family went to midnight carol service every Christmas eve. My brother and I sat through the singing full of anticipation, because as soon as we got home, we would be allowed to open a single present before bed as our parents drank warm egg nog spiked with brandy and watched us with an amused indulgence I only understood after I had children.
This Christmas eve will not find us in church, though our minister is coming by our home this morning so that my husband, who is on the vestry, can co-sign some checks. The business of the world presses on. Later we will go to the store and lay in groceries, and my husband will cook a hearty soup that we will eat in bread bowls and serve to the friends of my children who are camped out in our living room. I love having them here, large boys, young men really, draped over my living room furniture watching a nightly Avatar marathon, they are up to the fire nation now, as giggling girls run down the hallway in a flurry of chatter and teenage heels and squeals.
We put up a small table-top tree this year, thinking we might be elsewhere for the holidays. The presents climb in small towers around its branches. Boxes arrive at the door each day, gifts from cousins in other cities who are more organized. Our gifts to them will arrive after Christmas. They don't mind. They have come to enjoy the epilogue of presents arriving after all the brightly-colored wrapping paper has been cleared away. One last sweet echo of Christmas morning.
And then I helped my girl fill the boxes and tie red bows around them. Last night, she went out to dinner with her five closest friends, carrying a ribbon-tied box of Christmas treats for each one. They were meeting at a neighborhood diner, nothing fancy, though you couldn't have told from the way they got all gussied up. Oh, to be sixteen and seventeen. The boys, joined by another of their friends, went to a midnight Imax-3D showing of the movie Tron. Back home, my husband and I lay side by side in bed, chatting about everything, contented.