Rachel tapped her fingers on the trolley as she waited in line at the local grocery store. She couldn't believe she was doing this. It had been three hours since she rang to see if Jessica, the teenage girl who lived three houses down, was home and if she would be free to come and baby sit for a few hours. Jessica readily agreed, she loved playing with the girls. She came right over. She was such a great girl, Rachel knew she was lucky to have her. That was at 5 o'clock, she had thought at most her venture would take her two hours tops but here she was, it was 8:00pm. It occurred to her that going to the grocery store on the 23rd of December was not her best idea. Lucky for Rachel ADSA was open until 10 pm tonight, since it was Saturday. It is a good thing it wasn't Sunday or they would have to go without. On the other hand maybe it would have been better, at least it would have been much less complicated. She had waited for nearly two hours just to get into the car park and find a space. Apparently, she wasn't the only one who had let some last minute details slip.
She laughed as she thought of her silly predicament, and it was all of her own creating. It really wasn't that big of a deal, in fact she had almost let it slide this year but tonight she decided that the thought of a Christmas without it just didn't seem right. She wasn't even Dutch, but ever since she could remember her mother had made a Christmas Kringle as part of their Holiday festivities. It wasn't a simple feat to make either, it was a two day processes. But, she could stay up late tonight and make the dough. Tomorrow she would finish the job, leaving Christmas free for more important traditions.
Growing up, Christmas had always seemed like such a magical time of year. Her mother made it a point to make everything about the day extra special. Rachel thought about her parents back home and what they were doing. After Rachel had gotten married they had started a new tradition of only hosting Christmas once every other year which allowed all of the children a year to celebrate with their in-laws. In the beginning, Rachel hated the new tradition. But now that she was used to it she had to admit, it was nice to not feel like she had to choose between her in-laws and her family. It worked out to be a wonderful opportunity for her and Jacob to have Christmas in their own home without complicating it with travel. She wondered about what her parents did on their off year, did her mom still make as much of a big deal for just her and her father? She guessed that their celebrations were much smaller but knew they would include many things that Rachel had when she grew up. Even the trip to the grocery store on the evening of the 23rd. How could she have forgotten? It wasn't a tradition per se but inevitably every year her mother would be at the store just as Rachel found herself this year. Her mother never seemed to mind though. She loved shopping at Christmas. Sometimes Rachel had wondered if she “forgot” things as an excuse to go to the store one last time before Christmas Eve. As she thought about all those shopping trips she wondered if her mother was shopping right now. The thought made her happy, she was participating in another Christmas tradition without even realizing it. All of a sudden she started looking around and taking notice of all of the decorations that had carefully been placed in the store. Christmas was starting to feel a bit more magical than when she arrived.
Rachel always tried to make the day extra special for the girls. They spent every day in December doing something to lead up to the big day. Christmas crafts, caroling, delivering cookies, and doing service. She and Jacob had decided when Emily was just one year old that Christmas would not be about the gifts in their home. Sure, they hung stockings and gave a few gifts but they never over did it. Christmas Eve was always spent on a blanket on the floor where they had had what they referred to a “Shepherds Dinner.” They'd serve things that the shepherds probably ate at the time Christ was born, or at least as close as to what they ate as they could think of. It involved eating a lot of figs and nuts from old fashion dishes made of wood. “They probably were eating it the night when the angel came to announce his birth” they told the girls. It was quite possible they were. They still enjoyed opening gifts on Christmas morning, to be sure, but each of the girls only received 3 gifts, symbolic of the gifts the Savior was given. That was just Rachel's way of doing things. Because of this the girls had grown up without Christmas being about getting things, she could tell that it was even more magical for them than it had been for her. At least that is what she hoped. The best part of the day was always spent having adventures as a family. Sometimes they went places, like for a walk in the Moors, or just around town. When it was really cold or snowing out they would stay in their pajamas all day, sit in front of the window drinking hot chocolate and telling stories. Always about grand adventures, and always full of imagination.
Jacob would be working late this evening and it looked like he would be working most of the day tomorrow as well. She didn't mind too much as she hadn't been able to finish everything she wanted to do for him. She hadn't yet decided what she was going to make for him this year. She was almost at the till, only 4 people left to go, she started to relax even more. Then, she realized she had forgotten to grab some milk and she took a deep breath and got out of line to head to the dairy aisle. Silent night was playing on the sound system and she thought about the first Christmas she and Jacob had spent after they were married. They had managed to scrape together enough money to get gifts for their families but realized they had no money for gifts for each other. No matter, they decided the most important gifts are often the ones that are homemade. It had been 10 years since that first Christmas and even though they now had money the tradition of making gifts for one another had continued. She thought about all the gifts they had made, the picture books, the stockings, and the poems. The most romantic thing that Jacob did for her was 4 years ago. Jacob had given her a voucher for a “surprise worth waiting for.” She loved surprises. She didn't know it at the time but this one was to be redeemed the day after Christmas. Jacob came home early from work to watch the girls. He sent her out to lunch with her friends, It was so nice to have a relaxing day with friends after a hectic holiday season. The thought of that gift alone made her smile. But, the real surprise came when she discovered that what she thought was just an opportunity to go out to lunch AND a movie with friends (a fabulous gift in and of itself), was really a ruse for a romantic evening that he taken a month to plan. He sent the girls to his mother's for the night, it was the first time they had ever had the girls stay anywhere but with them. He cleaned the whole house, including putting away all of the Christmas gifts that were strewn about when she had left home earlier in the morning. When she arrived home, he sent her straight upstairs to the bath he had drawn, it smelled of lavender and had flowers floating on the top. The room was lit with candles, and the final ingredient he explained was “a lot of love”. That was just the beginning. He cooked a gourmet dinner of coconut couscous and grilled chicken. He had even made cheesecake for dessert, yummmmm. He had set the table with the nice linen and fine china. Served the meal with a bottle of sparkling juice, what great surprise indeed!
She had been trying to think of what to make him this year and had come up empty. It would come to her though, she wasn't worried, sometimes her best ideas came at the very last minute.
Another hour passed before Rachel made it to the front of the line, yet again. When she saw the time she started feeling stressed. Jessica needed to get home, the girls were very late to be put to bed, which would make for a very grumpy Christmas Eve. The house was a mess. On top of all of this, she realized that in her rush, she hadn't eaten dinner and now she was getting a headache. She was exhausted. The thought of making the Kringle became much less appealing.
When she reached the house a little after 9:30 she was surprised to see Jacob's car in the drive. He was home 2 hours before she had expected him. She felt more stressed as she realized that she would not have any time to make him a gift with him home. Not to mention the Christmas Kringle, the thought of which was becoming less appealing by the minute. Christmas was supposed to be a time of joy, why did she feel so stressed! When she walked in, the house was a mess, but the girls were a sleep. Jacob met her at the door with a hug and a kiss. He asked her if she was hungry, he led her into the kitchen, where the dirty dishes were piled in the sink, and gestured for her to sit at the table. He looked exhausted. He had only arrived home at 8:30. He thought Rachel could use some help when he had called to talk to her at eight and Jessica answered the phone. He had finished up the last few things and then headed home. He and the girls had walked Jessica home, and paid her for her time, double her pay and then some as a Christmas bonus. He had put the girls to bed. He went to the stove and served up two plates of his specialty, Macaroni and Cheese and hot dogs. He served it with water. She smiled at Jacob and as they started to eat, both exhausted from the day, she thought it was more delicious than anything she had had in a fancy restaurant, maybe it was because she was so hungry. It was probably because it was made with so much love, it not only fed her body but her soul.
After they ate, he did the dishes, and she cleaned the house. She went to bed without making the Kringle after all, but it didn't seem necessary anymore. Christmas would be Christmas without it. In fact, in later years she would look back at this night, at this moment, as one of her favorite Christmas gifts ever.
The next day she did figure out what to get Jacob. On Christmas morning he gave her a big kiss after he opened his gift from her. It was just a simple piece of paper that said, “To Jacob, Thank you for the most romantic Christmas ever, All my love, Rachel.”