Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Christmas Tree Tantrum, and Mittens



I've long said that our fake Christmas tree of the past 10 years has many times saved my marriage.  Long gone were the fights about how many lights to put on the tree, finding the 'perfect' tree, and what size would actually fit into our house.

Something nostalgic about having a daughter all grown-up possessed us to go cut down a real tree.  Our kids were thrilled, however, after getting it into the house I was reminded of all the reasons why we had a fake one in the first place.  I hated it, and threw a tantrum just like my two-year-old.  I wanted it to be perfect! It was not.  It wasn't full and even.  There was a large gap on one side, not hidden by turning the tree.  To fit it into the house, we had to cut off all the bottom branches, where the fullness had been.  It bothered me for days.  What I didn't realize, was that after all the lights were on, and the ornaments in place, it's natural beauty would shine through.  The imperfections of a real tree, of course, become part of it's charm.  It did finally grow on me, until I loved it, and I learned an important lesson, I think.

The 'perfect' tree, however, ended up being a tiny, two and a half foot, ugly, artificial tree in our son's hospital room this month.  We brought it with us, and hung some mini-lights and ornaments on it to cheer the space. It brought comfort to us, as well as joy to doctors, nurses, and visitors that came by.

Image may contain: plant, christmas tree and indoor

I had never imagined or thought about what an extended stay in a children's hospital could be like in the month of December.  Our son had a scheduled, expected, procedure that went well, however as the days passed, I saw many things that opened my eyes and my heart: cancer patients in pain, little babies hooked-up to tubes and alone, and the best, most patient, nurses in the whole world.  I met mothers who had been in and out of the hospital for months with their little ones.

During my stay there, I managed to finish some knitting projects: some gnomes and some booties.  I ran across a baby Norwegian cap I had knitted this summer, and as you know if you are a knitter, all baby hats are cursed; this one about two sizes too small for a newborn.  It was stuffed into the bottom of the knitting bag, having been forgotten.  I know God puts us in the right place at the right time though, because that little hat sized for a doll, made it's way down to the Neo-natal ICU, where it was very gratefully accepted.  So, I knitted on, finally finishing my very first pair of Norwegian mittens.

They were hard, not so much because of the knitting, I'm sure I could make them again, but because all the tedious pattern following.  Keeping my place on the chart with all of those little squares, while keeping the momentum of four small needles going was tricky.  I could not have done it at home with a two-year-old tugging at me, and while I had imagined a garland full of different Norwegian mittens, this one pair may be it. As I look at them I will always remember the kind nurses and staff at the hospital, that commented on my knitting, and watched my progress, some saying, "I always wanted to learn to do that!"   I am convinced that all the best Christmas angels work in children's hospitals.

We were released just three days before Christmas.  By then, most of the rooms had emptied, except for the few patients that would probably be staying there over the holiday weekend.  The day we were to go home was such a joy for us, but I found myself praying for all those we left behind. I left a part of my soul there.  I came home a little different: a little more grateful, a little less selfish, a little more aware, I hope.

Our Christmas was lovely.  Our Charlotte wanted "those things that farmers wear" and put her new overalls on right over her polka-dot sleeper pajamas.  Our Cookie got a teddy bear bigger than she is, and cuddled right up.  Our boys got new minky-soft blankets.  Our oldest got a vinyl Heart record and a guitar pedal.  It was a Christmas I won't soon forget, one where my own heart grew a few sizes bigger. 

Merry Christmas to all of our dear friends and family, we love you so much, and we wish you the most Happy New Year!