Erik Quinn: The Heart of a Family: Happy Day

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy Day

Why must I wake up at 3 a.m.? Is there something I am supposed to be doing at this very moment that can't wait until the sun makes its appearance? There is no cow to milk or butter to churn. I can't figure it out.

Christmas 2006 is now in the history books. There were no butterflies in my stomach. There was no frantic, last-minute shopping for gifts. My knuckles were hive-free, and my fingers didn't swell around my rings like pale, sweaty hot dogs. Brian and I combined both of our families for the holiday, and things went without a hitch.

Saturday afternoon Brian's parents arrived from the valley. I prepared a stock pot of beef stew for Brian to put in the oven to simmer while Erik and I attended Baby Samantha's first birthday party across town. The weather was extremely iffy, as it was pouring down rain and fat, wet clusters of snowflakes simultaneously and was a mere five degrees from transforming everything into a black sheet of ice. However, it remained warm enough that Erik and I had a safe, relatively quick trip on the highway through holiday traffic to Sammy's house, where Shaena, Sammy's mom, had prepared a lovely selection of munchies and a beautiful bowl of frothy, pastel-colored punch. I truly enjoyed watching Shaena's amazement at how emotional the day turned out to be for her. I remember watching my sister-in-law fight tears at my nephew's birthday party years ago and wondering what that was all about. I fully understand now. Most of the women I know and love have struggled to have kids in some way. Most of us have waited years for them. It hasn't been as easy as we were all led to believe it would be. Therefore, the first birthday becomes a giant milestone for our families. We look at our growing kids in amazement and can't help but feel extra thankful.

As the party progressed, we sang "Happy Birthday" to Sammy, and the ice cream cake was skillfully carved. Erik and I retired to the living room, where we sat by the Christmas tree, listened to Christmas songs, and quietly feasted on thick layers of chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream. Sammy soon joined us to open her gifts. She thoroughly enjoyed waving colorful scraps of wrapping paper in the air and watching the colorful party balloons bob up and down. She was given an adorable, tiny princess crown trimmed with fluffy, pink marabou, which she enjoyed looking at more than putting on her head.

When we returned home, I tried to explain to Brian how things went for me emotionally. As always, I have a heartache hangover for some time after an event involving other children. I may never again attend a baby shower, and birthday parties are still a bit of a stretch for me. I had been anxious about whether most people at the party knew about Erik. I was actually relieved when they seemed to say just enough to let me know that they knew and left it at that. The folks in attendance are all people I see occasionally and truly love, as Shaena's family and friends have pretty much become part of my own family and friends over the years. They were wonderful to us both, but I still felt a little awkward. I think most of that feeling stemmed from me debuting Erik in this particular group for the first time. I tried to think about how I could have changed my attitude going into this situation and came up with absolutely nothing I could have done differently. All in all, Erik and I did fine, and we were in a safe, loving environment where I could feel anything I wanted. It's impossible for me to pretend or forget there's nothing wrong yet, as I am still grieving and comparing Erik to other kids. We still had a great time. In fact, we stayed much longer than I originally intended before we drove home through the rain again -- me with tears in my eyes for various reasons and Erik singing his own rendition of "Happy Birthday" from his car seat.

Happy day!
Happy day TO YOU!
Happy day Sam-MEE!

Sunday marked the beginning of our Christmas Eve Extravaganza. Brian's parents accompanied us to church in the morning, where we sang Christmas songs and enjoyed a message about Christmas being a time of change if our hearts are open to it and we dare stray from the usual script. I smiled to myself because they didn't seem to have "O Holy Night" on the roster that morning. As you might recall, that was the song that got me a few days ago in my own living room. However, toward the end of the service, a stocky, benign-looking man wearing a red turtleneck and lizard-green sports jacket made his way to the microphone and belted out a booming version of that very song, the likes of which our congregation has probably never heard before. Even Brian voiced his amazement after it was through. I had tears in my eyes and a giant smile on my face. You got me, God.

After the service, I retrieved Erik from the nursery and was making my way back to the front of the church when a man whom I didn't know approached us and loudly announced, "Looks like somebody's going skiing today!" I glanced down and realized that Erik's pants had ridden up slightly, exposing his leg braces. Apparently, they look like ski boots. Um... What do you say to that? Yeah, we're really pressed for time and prefer to hit the slopes in our Sunday best? I automatically explained they were leg braces, and the man dissolved into the noisy crowd. When I told my father about this later, we actually laughed very, very hard. These are the moments that make what is horrible into something ridiculous and much more emotionally digestible. Thanks, Dad.

My family Christmas Eve tradition includes dining on bowls of hot clam chowder and tearing into presents, a process that usually takes hours, as we all take turns unwrapping gifts. It was a lovely evening, but the absence of my brother and his wife was palpable. We missed them very much.

Monday morning I got out of bed early and got things going. I set the table with our wedding china and stuffed our 14-pound ham in the oven. I chilled bubbly beverages on the porch, prepared green bean casserole, baked a cinnamon-apple Hanukkah cake, and checked to see that my cranberry salad had set. Any stress I might have felt was no match for the knowledge that my mother was also awake across town making potatoes, pies, and rolls. She is my secret weapon. When everybody else woke up, they enjoyed working Sudoku puzzles and video games, gladly offering their help when I needed it. Everything felt so easy this year, and I had a fabulous time preparing everything. Brian assembled Erik's new piano keyboard and stand. I found a place for it in the living room, and we enjoyed some of the amazing songs programmed into it. My family joined us at noon, and we sat down to eat together. Erik missed the meal because of his nap, but I woke him up in time to say goodbye. As the front door began to swing closed as people left the house, Erik was still wishing us all a very HAPPY DAY!

My heart is indeed open, and I can feel things changing in a big way this season. Although it has been painful to adapt to what has changed without my consent, it feels good to let a lot of the old dreams and expectations go and accept what is new and unknown. What better time to do this than Christmas before a brand new year begins?

Okay, so there may be a few butterflies in my stomach after all.


Blogger Michelle said...

It sounds as though y'all had a wonderful time. We sure did!!

It's hard for me to comment on the struggles that you are going through because I'm not having to face them myself, so I can't possibly understand how it must feel. All I want to say is that I'm glad that your starting to feel more comfortable and open with Erik's future, and I hope that your are replacing your old dreams for him with new ones that are as equally grand.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

6:35 AM  
Anonymous Erik's gramma said...

Happy Day! What's in store is still very myeterious, as it is with everyone, but in March I couldn't have believed that we'd be looking forward to the new year. Our cups overflow.

Love, Mom

7:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a lovely Christmas. Very cozy.

Had to laugh at the "going skiing" sitch. Ours was when a man at a church event said, "Hey, how come you're so bald?" He was just joking around, she was, after all, a baby. But I didn't just smile -- I piped up and said, "Because she just had chemo." He laughed like it was a joke and I said, "No, really." Lead to a good coversation, though, as he'd had cancer, too.

Merry Christmas!

1:03 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

Sounds like you had a good Christmas! At least you had Christmas weather. In New England you want snow - it was 50.

Regarding the leg braces, you should have told the man Erik was on the Junior Ski Team and act really proud.:)

I'm glad you are ready for a new year and new outlook. Erik is such a hoot already, I think your year is going to be real FUN!

Love -K

7:40 PM  
Blogger samuru999 said...

Thanks for the sharing!
It sounds like it was a lovely Christmas...all in all!

May your New Year be full of many blessings!
Happy New Year!


4:36 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

I'm glad you added the picture - so cute!!

6:26 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

What a lovely family picture. Thank you for sharing your Christmas stories. I love to hear how you and Erik are doing. I look forward to getting to know you and your family even more in this new year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Nancy!!!

7:55 PM  
Blogger kathi said...

I'm too tired to read, barely keeping my eyes open,,,but the pics look so goood. Read more later tomorrow. love you!

8:47 PM  
Blogger Teresa & Shawn said...

Merry Christmas!

Okay, you need to stop describing food in your blog because it makes me hungry. You must be a fabulous cook!

I am glad the butterflies were few. How did Erik enjoy Christmas?

9:22 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Teresa --

Erik enjoyed Christmas immensely, but his favorite part was, of course, the people in the house. He would have been fine without presents altogether. That's my boy!


11:43 AM  
Anonymous Shaena and Sammy said...

Thank you for joining in my birthday celebration. It was indeed a "Happy Day"! (despite Mommys' eyes filling with tears every fifteen minutes)

We love you.

Samantha and Shaena (Mommy)

4:40 AM  

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