I love to decorate for Christmas.
But I prefer to do it very slowly.
The halls of most American yuletide-loving homes are fully decked by the close of Thanksgiving weekend, but that's when I'm just beginning my process. Armed with bits of paper, tree branches, fishing line, assorted garlands, and twinkle lights, I expect to spread the job out over the next few weeks.
Here, in day-to-day installments, is the story of how my house is getting ready for Christmas.
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Celebrating Christmas with a houseful of growing children is a beautiful season of life.
Most of us parents cherish those years when the sweet mysteries of the holiday shine through the hurly-burly, and we can once again experience the innocent wonder of Christmas through our children's eyes.
Then, in a flash, those days are over, and our babies traipse off into the world to make lives for themselves. We parents are left breathless and confused, wondering how on earth these little ones slipped away from us so quickly.
It's not easy to get used to living in an empty nest, and many parents mourn this phase of family life.
I, however, have come to love it.
Because for every bittersweet goodbye, there is a joyous and resounding welcome home.
And the best homecomings of all happen at Christmas time.
In the past week, two of my far-flung baby birds have returned to me.
My fourth-born is back from her college in the desert.. She came home at Thanksgiving time for a flash, and now we can enjoy the luxury of a long and lazy three-week break together.
And my adventure-seeking third-born has come back home after a year and a half of living in Vietnam, where she has been teaching English to adorable, chubby-cheeked Asian children. I was lucky enough to go visit her last summer, but she has not been home for a long, long time.
In honor of these two exciting and celebration-worthy events, I made a welcome home banner.
The pages were cut from an old phyiscs textbook as part of a different project; I've been saving them for years, certain that sooner or later, they would come in handy.
Yup. They sure did.
And the letters were cut from paper grocery bags spray painted gold.
Strung up in the hallway, my message could not be missed. The girls ran smack dab into it from the instant that they stepped through the front door; my crazy tall baby had to duck to pass beneath.
I plan to leave the banner in place all season long. This arrangement may not read as a traditional Christmas decor but anyone who has grown children will certainly relate.
So, you parents of young children, enjoy this season of:
hanging freshly painted hand-print ornaments on the tree,
making gingerbread houses that collapse, and just eating all the candy,
watching your little angels sing in the Sunday school pageant,
waiting in line for pictures with Santa, and
setting out the proverbial cookies and milk.
Have a blast. Make beautiful, hilarious memories that you will cherish forever.
But just remember, the joys of Christmas homecomings are rich beyond compare. The best truly is yet to come.