I think my family might have already had Christmas, and it didn’t cost us a thing but the willingness to slow down.

Shaw kids and SantaWhen I say family, I’m not referring to my husband and children. I’m talking about my first family, the ones who were with me from the very beginning: my parents and two brothers.

For as long as I can remember in our adult years, my two younger brothers have stayed the night at my parents’ house after the Thanksgiving festivities. They wake up the next morning and help Mom and Dad decorate the house for Christmas, which is no small task. Mom goes all out, and it really does look spectacular from top to bottom every year. I’ve never been a part of this tradition, as I’m always in a hurry to get home with my own people to deck my own halls.

This year, I decided to stay. I sent my people packing and settled into my old bed, knowing that I’d be behind on my own decorating schedule, but for the first time, just not caring that much. The next morning, after coffee and some of Mom’s Thanksgiving rolls, the project was underway. My dear brothers have a system, which works great for Mom, as she likes order. After a number of trips up and down the stairs to get all the trimmings, the work began. I quickly discovered that there wasn’t much I could really do. They were pros at this. Of course Mom was project manager, but the boys (we still refer to them this way) were the boots on the ground. For a second or two, I considered hiring them for my own decorations, but it was clear that they have only two clients: Mom and Dad.

Three Shaw FamilyI think to make me feel useful, someone handed me some smashed bows that needed attention. Myles started assembling the tree, and I had to laugh as he pulled on his rubber gloves to keep his hands from getting torn up while he fluffed the branches. He’s the first man I’ve ever known who seems to understand how important it is to fluff the branches appropriately. I discovered that he also has a keen understanding of how important it is to do the lights correctly. He was using words like “nestle” and “distribution” in a way that would turn Martha Stewart’s head. All the while, my other brother Colin, the middle child, had the tree skirt tied around his neck, and was moving from room to room declaring himself “Captain Christmas.” He takes his role as chief comedian in the family  very, very seriously.

Four Shaw FamilyWe were laughing, following Mom’s directions, listening to Christmas tunes, when Dad pointed something out. It was the first time in a long time, at least 25 years, I’m sure, that the five of us, the “original five” had been together by ourselves. No husbands or grandchildren, girlfriends or pets. Just we five. We all stopped for a moment, and recognized it for what it was: a rare and wonderful gift.

Once the halls had been decked, we had leftover turkey for lunch and it was time to pack up and head for our homes, even though we wanted to stay just a little bit longer.

Colin and MomThat night, I started hauling out my own decorations. My teens aren’t particularly interested in the process like they used to be when they were younger, so I’m often at it by myself for now. It’s my hope that one day, it will excite them again, and that they’ll come home to help us do it.

Note: in the process of writing this blog, I discovered something else; we don’t have a good recent photo of the five of us. This year, we’re going to remedy that.