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Christmas is less than a week away, and I’ve got a song stuck in my head. It’s not Jingle Bells or Silent Night; it’s Carly Simon’s Anticipation. Because my boys are coming home for the holidays, I am swept up in the anticipation of their arrival. As self-appointed Chief Elf, I’m making lists of what ingredients we need for various feasts, shopping for Santa, baking the cookies that appear on the menu just once a year, and filling my Golf wagon with gas – the errands! It is this anticipation, the build-up, to Christmas that sets my heart a-patter.

It was not that long ago that the boys were little and as excited about Christmas as most children. The Big Book from Toys R Us would arrive in the mail just after Thanksgiving, and they would lie, thigh to thigh, on the floor, circling the toys they wanted most with red markers. On Christmas Eve, we would put cookies and milk on the mantle for Santa, as well as a few carrots for Rudolph and his crew. Ted or I would read a Christmas story or two and then tuck them into bed, their eyes shining in the dark like miniature flashlights. Sleepy, they were not! Around three in the morning, we’d hear them and then see them, sitting on the top step of the flight of stairs leading to their second floor bedrooms, waiting for our okay to fly down the stairs, all a-clamor about the loot under the tree.

It’s different now, in that the gifts no longer seem to matter – the focus having shifted to holiday food, festive drink, game playing, and engaging conversation. What hasn’t changed is the unabashed merriment, the joyful retelling of favorite stories. And this is what I’m thinking about in the days leading up to the 25th – about having my young men home. We will drink coffee from the same pot. We will wrap ourselves in coats, hats, and gloves and walk along the river. We will unapologetically eat top-of-the-food-pyramid fare. We will talk about what’s on our minds. We will be a family again.

My anticipation stops short of being as blissful as the real thing. Instead, the thinking and dreaming and hoping and planning help me to experience Christmas as deeply as I can. As does eggnog. Merry Christmas!

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