This year, for the first time since I was a child, I have actually been looking forward to Christmas, trying to make Advent a time of spiritual preparation as well as getting ready for the arrival of 37 people at my home on Christmas Day for dinner. They won't all just descend on Christmas. Two of my daughters, their husbands, and their 7 children arrive tomorrow. Catherine and her family are scheduled to touch down from Canada at 6 PM tomorrow. Unfortunately rain is also scheduled. To make matters more complex, the furnace in the part of the house where my office is, and where Elizabeth and her husband will be staying had an induction assembly go bad on Friday, and when the furnace specialist diagnosed it, he didn't have the parts, so it will be arriving tomorrow at noon, and then his company will schedule his arrival at my home, possibly about the time I need to leave for the pickup at the airport. I have Mary, my second daughter, and a friend of my son's on standby to make the airport run or be here to let the repairman in depending on how he wants to be paid. These sorts of indecisive arrangements leave me feeling nervous and EXTREMELY stressed. In the meantime, I'm operating in my office with space heaters, exercise, and leaving for the warmer side of the house when I get too cold. Now I know we live in Southern California, but in the mornings it has been as low as 36 degrees, so I frequently keep a jacket or coat on while I'm working on the arctic side of the house.
Because we will need the dining room table with both leaves, as well as the kitchen table with table extenders, we have had to set up the Dickens Village, which was my husband's on the L-shaped counter in my office. There is a faucet in the middle, so I turned off the water and put a plant in front of it, except we found the next day that a bit of water was still seeping out. After 5 or 6 attempts at tightening the valves, the water was finally completely shut off, and today Mary came to set up the Dickens Village, which looks quite nice except that it took up the spot where the second space heater was keeping me a little warmer.
My daughter Elizabeth and her family will be coming in late tomorrow night (they are mostly night owls) and since they are coming from LA, driving down at night lessens the chance that they will be stuck in the usual traffic situations that are so abundant here.
I will be playing three solos at Midnight Mass. I open the caroling with 2 verses of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," followed by the choir entering for the rest. At Communion, I'll be playing "The First Noel," and after the final triumphant sounds of "Joy to the World" at the end of Mass, I will follow with "In Dulci Jubilo" to usher everyone out. For the first time, I will be miked and standing, so I have to remember to practice these pieces standing as it is a bit more strenuous than playing seated . A number of the family members will be filling up a pew or two next to the choir, and it's possible that my brother-in-law and his family will also be there if they are not too jet-lagged from their flight from the East Coast.
For Christmas dinner, Mary will be coming with her family from half an hour away, and when we are putting the final touches on the turkey and the brisket and the ham and all the side dishes, Elizabeth will take her turn at the airport run and pick up Theresa and her family, including the two youngest girls (who are 2 and 7 months) whom I haven't met yet and bring them home to fill in some spaces at the two tables. There will also be the current and former boyfriends of my niece. The former is still good friends with my niece, and since his mother joined a contemplative convent, he doesn't have a family to join at Christmas, so we are welcoming him here again (he was a delightful member of our table of 20 at Thanksgiving). We sang an appropriate recessional at Mass today, "People, Look East," which advises, "The time is near Of the crowning of the year. Make your house fair as you are able, Trim the hearth and set the table. People, look east and sing today. Love, the guest, is on His way." My friend and business partner, who runs a guest house on her property, also helped me get ready, buying new pillows and fluffy blankets, and loaning me her extensive sets of dishes and cutlery and even her oriental rug for the family room so the grandchildren would have a warm place to play. Love, the guest, is on his way, both as the child born in Bethlehem, and in the presence of so much of our family gathering together in thankfulness for all we share.