I warned you I would be watching from the sidelines. Quietly observing our crazy get-together. While we didn’t get to see all of the skits I listed previously, we still had fun. I didn’t mean to be a stalker, but here’s a little bit of action I observed “behind-the-scenes” at a Marshall family Christmas:
- Dad heading out to man the outdoor furnace, faithfully supplying heat to the cabin.
- Mom making pancakes.
- Jennifer organizing a clean-up crew for one particular meal time. Her plan: “Everyone washes 15 dishes. If we all wash 15, we should get the kitchen cleaned up in no time!”
- Deborah laughing and talking at the table.
- Sharon organizing a food line.
- Jonathan leading games for everyone and making up other games with nieces and nephews.
- Matt reading his Bible (the spiritual man that he is). Matt chopping potatoes. Matt playing the banjo. Matt . . . you get the idea.
- Monica and Chris making lasagna (you’ll have to ask her who Chris is).
Sisters- and brothers-in law making coffee and helping to prepare meals. Quiet chats with like-minded brothers-in-law (thanks, Dan!). Little nieces and nephews pattering up and down the stairs. Music played on the piano and violin and flute by nieces and nephews–an impromptu concert. The littlest niece toddling around, protesting as she was snatched from her play by one or more cousins. Children snitching cookies. Two nieces decorating the Christmas tables with ferns and tiny candles and colored bulbs.
Jon and Sharon pouring over an old datebook we used while traveling. They reminisced over churches and pastors and people I don’t remember well. Their minds seemed to bring it all back at once.
And on the fringes, the music. Always the music. Matt on the banjo. Jon on the guitar. A capella numbers. Once we tried to practice an old Christmas tune for a candlelight service at my parents’ church. The harmony seemed to come back at once, the parts cemented in our minds from years ago.
The music slipped in around the table. It seemed to pop up most frequently in the kitchen while we washed dishes (the dish pile never seemed to end, so we sang quite a bit). This Christmas we sang in the kitchen more than ever before. But I loved every minute of it.
A few times we pulled out old home videos. We laughed loudly at old hair styles, mannerisms, and antics. That life we used to live seemed faint and distant, like blurry black-and-white pictures from old photo albums. But when the videos stopped and I looked around, I saw that not much had changed. At the core, we were still that crazy Marshall family with a pile of instruments and a pile of memories.
No family is perfect. We all carry secret hurts and sad memories around. Often without meaning to, we hurt the very ones we love the most. We hide behind walls constructed of pride and fear and anger. Yet we also carry love in our hearts for each other, a love that ties us together despite different personalities, different viewpoints, different interests. The years change us and stretch us in ways we never imagined possible.
But family remains, a gift from God. And for that, I am thankful.
P.S. If you want to see some video clips and pictures, visit my Facebook page.