If ever there was a good Christmas to be snowed in, this was it for us. We had not planned to travel. We hadn't planned a big gathering. In fact there were no firm plans at all.
My middle brother, Mark, was maybe going to come down from Tacoma, but even that wasn't firm. So the house was decorated for us. The meal was planned for us. And I was open to whatever might come, and open if nothing came.
Mark decided to come Christmas Eve in an attempt to beat the next storm. He had other offers for the holiday that would have been much easier for him, but he drove for three hours on what turned out to be mostly dry pavement (until he got to our nightmare road) to be with his big sister.
That was the first gift.
My three brothers and I have a complicated adult relationship, probably not that unusual. Until very recently you needed a play map to understand who was speaking to whom, and the possibility of the four of us ever being together happily under the same roof seemed about as likely as two weeks of heavy snow in the Pacific Northwest.
Mark arrived at our house later than he might have because our baby brother, Geoff, wanted to send a gift with him. I was puzzled by that because we don't exchange gifts usually, and financially Geoff is not in a position to be buying gifts this year.
He made a picture album - the same one for all three of us. It includes prints of pictures of our paternal grandparents, great grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. There are pictures of our dad as a child, our mom as a child, and one absolute favorite of the four of us on a couch as very young children. The captions for the pictures are moving, informative, and laugh out loud funny. The cover letter that my baby brother (who barely graduated from high school, struggles with reading and does not have an intimate relationship with words) wrote is one of the most beautiful things I've ever read.
The theme was the power of family love and especially sibling love. It was an offering of a heart no longer willing to exclude members of family because of disagreements or differing beliefs. It is a peace offering to my older brother, and opens the door to the possibility of the four of us being together again.
That was the second gift.
Mark's gift came wrapped in gift wrap, tucked in a huge gift bag. As I picked it up I could feel plastic through the paper - the kind that blankets come in. So even before I got the paper torn off I had an idea what he'd done. My brother made me a quilt. From fabric we had picked out together on his birthday last spring (for a quilt for him) on one of my favorite all-time days with him. On a very busy schedule in a very tiny home. He made me a quilt. The colors are warm, the pattern (which he created himself) eye-pleasing, the weight that of a loving hug.
That was the third gift.
For my part, I had decided to make jam for my brothers for Christmas. Our mom used to make a jam she called apple butter, but which is really spiced apply jelly. Made with apple pulp instead of apple juice because she didn't want to take the time to strain the pulp to get the juice. Geoff has asked me for the recipe countless times and lost it the same exact number of times. So I pulled out mom's original browned and stained recipe, bought the ingredients, and made apple butter for my brothers. In honor of one of the rare common pleasures of our childhood. Mark surprised me by telling me it's his favorite jam. I wish I could be there to hear Geoff's laugh when he sees what I've done. I hope it touches Frank in the same way I hope Geoff's album will.
In an amazement of synchronicity - without discussion, plans or questioning - we surprised each other with gifts of the purest, simplest love I can imagine. The world is a brighter place, my heart beats a lighter tune, and hope is a more certain blessing than I believed possible before this Christmas.
Top photo: Mark, Frank, Geoff, Big Sister - circa 1957. Geoff's caption: "Debbie, why are you squeezing my hand so hard?"