Benjamin reminded me of this old, loved saying of mine, “seven around the dinner table” on Wednesday night when we sat down for our traditional Christmas Eve dinner of chips and dip and cookies. It has been nearly a year since we all sat down at the table together, and Rebecca brought up that everybody might not be home for Christmas next year.
All the kids are adults now; Benjamin turned 18 a little over a week ago. So, even though it was pretty crazy here with everybody home, I cherished it.
Rebecca was home from Iowa for almost a week. She made homemade guacamole as part of our Christmas Eve dinner, and she said she might have put a little too much lemon juice. Sarah, who is not crazy about lemon, said, “How did this happen?” Rebecca took back the guacamole she’d given Sarah. Murray gave Sarah his share, and she laughed. “Rebecca just took that away too.”
I said we should sing for the prayer, like we did sometimes when the kids were little. Murray started, “Oh, the Lord’s been good to me, and so I thank the Lord.” After we’d sung it once, Benjamin said, “Let’s sing it ten times.” Rebecca and I sang it a second time, but it fizzled after that.
Caleb lives at home, but with work and everything else he’s involved in, we don’t see him as much as we’d like. He was able to get off work Christmas Eve and Christmas day. When he’s in the house, someone besides me whistles a lot, and he whistles better than I do. He also got several different kinds of coffee as gifts from friends, and he shared them with us, which was a lovely Christmas happening.
After dinner on Christmas day, we all sat around the table opening our gifts. Our tradition is to draw names among the seven of us, then make gifts. That is always fun, and was often amazing when the kids were little.
Rebecca asked if we remembered the year she wrote her name on every slip of paper for us to draw names from, and I got mad at her. I do remember that. I drew her name, and then when she said, “Oh, I drew my own name,” I bristled. “Well, you couldn’t have, Rebecca, and I think you know how I know.” Then fortunately, before I could say more that I would regret, Sarah said, “We all drew Rebecca!”
This year, Benjamin gave Murray a CD with sound effects, including motor cycles, thunder, car races, and horse races. Murray made Ping-Hwei a wall hanging with his initials made with pennies. Ping-Hwei gave Sarah two VCR tapes of a couple of her favorite movies. She still loves to watch VCR movies. Ping-Hwei also gave all of us a huge box of chocolates, and he doesn’t even like chocolate.
Sarah made brownies for Caleb, and also wrote a poem, starting each line with a letter from his name. Caleb made a wall hanging for me with verses from Isaiah 9 written in Braille, listing the names of Jesus. I knitted a purse for Rebecca, and a sash for her bath robe. Also in the package I put two stone cookie cutters which have lain never-used around the house for years. One is a teddy bear and the other a barn with farm animals, “Because I live in Iowa,” Rebecca said.
Rebecca made cookies for Benjamin, but also, because she knows he loves sound effects, she recorded a bunch on a file for him. She made them on her cell phone, using her own voice. There were about seventy, including a bee, loud nose blowing, a car starting, our old talking microwave, a donkey, a lamb, a crow, and much, much more.
The kids are all moving on to their own lives, so we may not all be here next Christmas. As loud and crazy and sometimes argumentative as we all were, I thank God for the gift of seven around the dinner table this year. James 1: 16-17: “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”