For as long as I can remember, the Ashworths have taken an unconventional approach to gift giving. Non-traditional has become the tradition. And most Christmases that I can remember also had some sort of self-imposed theme. "Natural Christmas" was the year we gave gifts that came from the earth. "Homemade Christmas" was, well, just like it sounds. The year my brother passed an excruciatingly painful kidney stone (is there any other kind?) we had a "Keep It Clear Christmas"--that was a tricky year for gift giving. One year all our gifts had to be Christmacycled--reused, repurposed, recycled, upcycled, etc (my sister and I made up that word....now I just need to find me a decent lawyer to trademark it...) The year I was on my mission my niece Hannah was two years old and apparently was going through a naked stage. I'm not entirely sure what gifts people gave the year of the "Naked Christmas," and I'll forever be sad about missing out on that one.
In recent years the themes have slowly disappeared, and the tradition has shifted in a less clever but more meaningful direction. The idea of "giving on behalf of" has become the new norm. This year, as we all gathered around and had our belated Christmas morning, we were all in tears as we read the cards we'd received explaining what donation or act of service had been done in our name. We cried as we read about the donated scholarship money for the children at Sandy Hook, books being provided to children in need, families having presents under their otherwise empty trees, and entire poverty-stricken villages receiving chickens, goats, llamas and other gifts to help them on their way to self reliance. It was so fun and rewarding and uplifting to see how our little Provo Christmas reached so far around the world.
I know ours is not the only family who's adopted this tradition. And wouldn't it be wonderful if this was how the whole world celebrated Christmas? But if that ever happens, let's just keep it on the down low, 'cause that would also inevitably be the end of the Ashworths celebrating it this way. There are downsides to being so deeply unconventional.
Traditional or not, I love my family. And we had such a great time with them. We acted out the Nativity the evening before we opened gifts, doing our best to pretend that the 27th-28th were actually the 24th-25th :) We played a billion games--including our newest tradition of Trivial PurSkype with Cynthia and Tom. We ate a billion calories--mostly in the form of cheeseball, salami and English toffee--all recipes that our mom made each Christmas and passed down to us.
|Grace, Eliza and Abby in their adorable skirts that Seamstress Aunt Kristie made for them.|
|James must have been cutting a tooth or fighting an earache, cause he was not his usual self. Luckily Hannah was there to provide the necessary snuggle time.|
We missed Kevin, who had rehearsals for his big play at the Laguna Playhouse--which apparently he rocked!
And we missed our mom. She is everywhere at Christmas time. The costumes we wear for the Nativity, the decorations, the food, the songs, the pianos, the games--she's everywhere. Which, in contrast to other years, felt really nice.
The girls got to stay up until 10pm on New Year's Eve. Conveniently that's exactly when the ball drops in NYC, and we found a live version of it. They felt pretty special staying up so late, and playing Uno with the adults. And at the real midnight, while the rest of us banged pots and pans on the porch, Jared carried on his self-inflicted tradition of running barefoot in the snow.
The only tragedy of the entire vacation was that Reid lost his wedding ring. Compared to the accidents and ailments of Christmases past, this is pretty minor. But it still makes me sad to think about it. When we went to Hawaii, he left his ring here. People had warned him that surfing and ring-wearing don't mix. In fact, the cheapo ring that he did wear to Hawaii was, indeed, swallowed up during our surf lesson. But this information was not fresh in his mind when his buddy invited him to go to the Flow Rider--an indoor surfing pool. And alas, his white gold ring was swallowed up by the simulated waves, never to be seen again.
There was an inscription on the ring that took me forever to choose. I debated for hours what to put on this ring that he would have for the rest of his life! I went with the most eternal, meaningful 20-characters-or-less I could think of, from a Pablo Neruda poem that I'd fallen in love with when I visited his beach house in my last days as a missionary in Chile. The inscription read: Seré, Serás, Seremos. Translated (but not sounding nearly as cool) it means: I will be, you will be, we will be.
Years ago Reid lost this ring in the middle of a snowy parking lot in New Hampshire, where we'd spent the weekend with some friends. We were sure it was gone forever. Weeks later, the ring miraculously was discovered by a grieving young widow who knew that her late husband had sent it as a sign of his love for her. When I told her what the inscription meant she wept and wept. Finding the ring meant even more to her than it did to us.
After all of that, I can't believe it got lost again. Reid is more bummed than I am. I try to keep my thoughts to myself, what with silence being golden and all. Maybe all my unmuttered thoughts will spin into another beautiful ring--preferably one that already has the perfect inscription.
Truthfully, my mind doesn't allow my heart to be as sad as it could be. I'm reminded that at least I still have the guy who wore it. And that we don't depend on the wool of llamas or the milk of goats to provide for our families. And that our kids had gifts under the tree. And that they're safe. And they're alive. And that, as much as that ring meant to me, it's nothing compared to the people in my life who I got to spend 12 awesome days with over Christmas break.