I am watching the boys play together with Legos and cars and tiny dollar store teddy bears, and while of course it is not going perfectly (there was sugar, and too little sleep, and these are these boys) I am in a rare mood, drunk on the buoyant nature of the day. I am flushed with a sense of greatest accomplishment -- never have I spent my money so completely and well, every penny nearly, and the boys all, to a one, thrilled.
Everett's gifts were Legos and more Legos, from Grandma and Grandpa and me, as I am waiting to read to them it has been 24 hours of studious, joyous play only interrupted by a spare eight hours of sleep. He worked through the instructions on each and every set, completing one and going on to another. He is in the most serious rapture and both he and I can see day upon day upon year of like play to come. His dad, too, is only now returning from two hours of riding his new bike, purchased on Twitter credit. He said something on Facebook: this Christmas did not turn out terribly as expected, he was surprised by a gift beyond all of my capacity to love and give this holiday season.
And there are books at my feet, a pile of best-loved Christmas books (must get the last reading in before it's too late, the very tail end of Christmas' even, anticipation spent hours ago), and it occurs to me how all of them end with a depiction of Christmas morning and the gifts; perhaps they're barely unwrapped, only peeking at what's in store for the receiver. And even in Corduroy's Christmas, the one with the little flaps to open and see what's inside, many of the boxes are still beribboned, unopened. The joy is so brief as to be unremarkable, a counting but not an accounting.
But gifts! What is a gift without discovery, sparkling eyes, smiles that turn all the way to tears, the hug of a teddy bear so spontaneous it can't be captured on camera, hours-days-years of love, gratitude, memories, Truman saying "this was from that OTHER Christmas," Monroe already tagging everything remotely associated with this season mimas. "Mee-mish," he says with joy, mimas bear, mimas train, mimas paper in red, mimas scissors we used to cut the paper chains. I put the books down and ask my boys, "are you grateful?" and they are, yes, yes, they look at me with eyes that are true. "What are you most thankful for?" The answer is "Legos and trains and cars and bears and Bakugan!", socks too, everything, they say.
We did not go around the table, during the year's Thanksgiving celebration, and say our rote annual thanks. Instead, this Christmas night, we tell ourselves that we will make our own book about the joy, not of anticipation, but of gratitude, for gifts given and received and used in ways that continue to surprise us. And as they are falling asleep around me, the deep breaths of better-than-anticipated, I think of my gifts. Not those under the tree but each of these boys with their challenges, the language that I cannot understand, the tempers and the fiery anger, the sensivity and the constant motion, the great and enormous need that each of these boys has for me. I think that I had not anticipated any of this, no, it surprised me in a flutter of pages far beyond the ends of picture books, and what it has required of me: patience, presence I cannot bear, money I do not have, love I cannot give, generosity more than I can muster: for this, I am grateful.