Tuesday, December 25, 2012

And to all a good night.

He said he wasn't coming. Too much traveling in the last month and a half. First for the weekend after the new normal started. Then once more for the services. Coming back to Atlanta again for Christmas would be too much. Just too much.

"But you'll be alone," we said.

"I'm okay," he replied.

"But I just want you here for Christmas. Even if you'll be okay I still want you to be here with us." That's what I said to counter that. Poured it on thick and made it specific. Not just you need to be here. But we want you to be here. I want you to be here.

He wasn't budging.

"I'm tired. I'll be fine, I will."

And even though I didn't like it, that answer made sense. So instead of pushing further, I just turned it into this joke where I'd ask him every single day what time his Christmas flight was getting in. And he'd just laugh and say, "In February or March." So I just kept on with it, hoping eventually he'd be swayed. When I called him last night--at around seven thirty at night--I finally believed him. I was expecting his phone to go straight to voice mail and to see him sneaking up behind JoLai when Harry brought her back from the airport.

Nope. He answered the phone and told me matter-of-factly of the west coast things he was up to and would be up to this Christmas. Because that's where he was.


The kids had hung out with Tounces all day and I'd just picked them up to bring them on home for Christmas eve. That's when I chatted with Dad on the phone and Harry, too, while heading up to Gwinnett county and back. Nothing about it was unusual. Except for the disappointment I felt about my dad actually going through with staying alone in California.


I walked into the door with the kids and the first thing I saw was a rolling carry on bag sitting at the door. I knew JoLai wasn't due for another two hours, so that was a bit confusing. I threw my keys onto the table and headed toward the kitchen. That's when I turned around and saw him. Sitting right on the corner of the couch smiling.


The BHE was in cahoots with him and had picked him up from the airport. They were even together during both of those earlier phonecalls, those scoundrels.

Man. I broke down and cried the minute I saw my daddy. I knelt right in front of him and laid my head on his lap and just wept and wept. I was so glad that he was here and that we would all be in one place together. Glad because this would be the first Christmas since the start of the new normal, but equally as glad just because it was Christmas period. 

No, we're not an extremely festive family. Surprisingly, there aren't any rules on who gets gifts for whom or how and when we do things. Our traditions involve things like playing Bananagrams and doing the gigantic holiday crossword puzzle in the newspaper. But now, more than ever, I am clinging to all of that. Embracing the most every day moments with those I love the most.

So yeah, my dad flew in and surprised us all. Even JoLai, who left him a lengthy to-do list in California. And we convened at Will's house and broke bread and spent time together. We all navigated the new normal the best we could, and it was better than expected since none of that had to be done over the phone.

Dad and JoLai slept over at our place on Christmas eve. The boys woke up to Santa's bounty and also the arms of us and their auntie and grandpa. Yep.

And look at this:

Aaah, this photo. I tell you it's everything I want for my sons and it embodies all of the reasons why I'm so glad that Poopdeck decided to come to town after all.

I can't stop looking at this image. It's so .  . . so . . . Norman Rockwell. . .don't you think? Look at how content they are. How safe and innocent. And look at their grandfather sitting there working his engineer's mind to assemble one of the many "assembly required" gifts found underneath all of that lumpy wrapping paper.

It looks so mundane, so serene, doesn't it? Zachary singing to himself while listening to music on his new headphones and hand-me-down iPod nano. Serious Isaiah with his grandpa's cerebral mind, studying his remote controlled toy and trying to determine if everything was in order before pulling the trigger.

Every bit of this made me happy. Every little tiny bit of it. Knowing the huge advantage in life that these seemingly forgettable moments afford children. Especially man-children.

But that's a whole separate blog post in itself.

Yeah, so Christmas morning was good. As always, the kids were thrilled and fortunately very grateful. We've committed ourselves to not going overboard so, just like last year, everything was unwrapped in less than twenty minutes.

So that was cool. And speaking of wrapping. . .

I spent some quality time with my little sister, JoLai. We sat up and wrapped gifts into the wee hours of the morning. And crappy wrapping became the goal, which made us both laugh out loud several times. The one above was the absolute best of the lot. Deanna would have stamped a big "REJECT" on those willy-nilly corners for sure. But at least it wasn't as fat and lumpy as the rest.

JoLai asked if Grandpa Isaiah would notice that Santa and Mommy used the same wrapping paper. I wagged my naive index finger because I had a solid answer for that concern.

"Clearly we leave all the gifts out that we bought and Santa's elves totally wrap everything. It's such a good deal and it saves mommies and daddies so much time."

To which she responded, "Clearly Isaiah will notice and ask you about it."

Hmmph. Challenge on.

Well. I should have listened to JoLai. Or at least had my act together like my sister-in-law Fran and had separate Santa and Mommy paper. Whoops. He never flat out asked me, but I definitely saw Isaiah's wheels turning this morning. I know he's only seven, but my guess is that the real Santa might soon be kicking rocks right along with mall Santa.

Yep. I think the gig might almost be up for the jolly dude. I've already been hit with several logistical questions in the last two years about the traveling arrangements. This year he even said, "Atlanta's kids alone would fill his entire sleigh with toys and stuff. It just seems. . . " And he just sort of stopped there.


The least I could've done was separate the wrapping paper situation in a watered down attempt to keep hope alive. I'll keep y'all posted on all of that.

What else? Oh yeah. Jo and I went for a lovely walk-slash-run after breakfast. A cool three miles in honor of Deanna's lucky number--three. We laughed and talked and just enjoyed one another. JoLai is all about exercise, so we broke a sweat, too.

Something about that felt right. The air, the walking, the talking, the sweating. The all of it. JoLai even gave me this cool t-shirt which made that walk feel even right-er.


Harry got the swanky headphones he wanted. I got my camera, too. And those boys got plenty of cool things including the thing they wanted the most: A Wii console.

Ooo Wii.

So that's mostly it. And for those who've thought of us, prayed for us or simply wondered how it went today. . . first. . let me say thanks for that. Because there's lots to think of on Christmas and fitting us into all of it isn't something you have to do. I also want you to know -- all of you who are struggling with your own pain and loss over the holidays -- I am thinking of you, too. Of Nancy and Crystal and Joy and Davina and Bridget and Rachael and so, so, many more people. Because the heart has room for that, remember?

So Christmas with the new normal. How was it?  Mostly it was wonderful. We were together in solidarity, touching and agreeing on all of the joy, pain, sunshine and rain (literally) that came with this day. So mostly, it was good and rich and full of love.

It was.

There were a few sunshowers but mostly lots of hugs and meaningful exchanges between family members of all ages.

And all of it was good. Very, very good.

Thanks for asking, okay?

Merry Christmas to all. And to all a good night.


  1. Let The Church say " Amen."

    Maria, fellow Meharrian

  2. So glad you had a good Christmas all together. Laughed out loud about the Santa wrapping paper...we do that here too! He has to have his own. But worst case scenario, you could always tell him what a friend of mine tells her older kids so that they don't spoil Santa for their younger siblings: "You don't believe, you don't receive!"

    1. I am so stealing that motto, Mama D. Yes! That Isaiah is too smart for his own good. I think that someday he'll confess that he never believed. Like, ever.


  3. Daddy's should always show up for Christmas.
    Yours does.
    What a sweetness. What a goodness.
    I am so glad he did.

    1. Yes. Daddies should. And that gives me another thing to be thankful for -- I recognize that those daddies don't always do as they should. I'm glad that Mr. Moon ("Bop") does. And I'm also glad that my daddy and husband do, too. It's a special thing, not to take for granted.

  4. OMGGGGG!!!!! That wrapping is H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S!!!!!! It looks just like mine all the time! I bet you haven't cut the paper to short and try to patch it together?! That's the kind of wrapping I DO!

    Mental Ipod Playing: "GET ON MY LEVEL!"

    1. C'mon, son! Clearly I have done the patchwork wrap fix job. You know what's up.

      Love that mental iPod song -- am totally on your level, Ashara!

  5. Norman Rockwell? Nah. That's a Kimberly Manning right there.

    I am glad your daddy came, and that you were all together. Thanks for coming here and sharing it with us.


    1. Actually, I was thinking it looked like a photo that you would appreciate. I saw it and thought,"Now Sister Lister would just pick every bit of joy out of this snapshot and multiply each part by twenty." Ha.

      Hugs back.

  6. I had a bad day last week, thinking about Deanna and missing her because I knew that she would be - should be - at my house since school was out. I thought Christmas would be hard and convinced myself that your Dad would be OK by himself in LA, and that made me a bit sad, too, though I was excited that JoLai would be here. I can't even begin to explain how wonderful it was that he showed up as well!
    There will always be things that bring tears,and smiles, to my eyes when I think about Deanna. Simple things like opening up the AJC and seeing that giant crossword puzzle because she loved doing that. Like going to the $5.00 movie at the mall because we always did that together. Like playing Bananagrams which she always won. Like wearing one of the many scarves she crocheted. So many things, so many memories.
    Yesterday was a good day, despite missing her and wishing she were here. I'm sure lots of days/months/years will be like that. The New Normal, indeed.

    1. I love you, Tounces. We all do. Just know that and let us love on you because we will.

  7. Your family's beauty leaves me breathless!

    1. Hey Nicole's mama! You and your daughter leave me breathless. But LAWD she sure did inherit all of that hair you have! I'm just saying -- God knew not to give me all that hair to comb. Ha haha.

      Nancy, I hope the day was okay for you. I thought of you and thought of Nicole--honoring your special bond and praying it was mostly okay.

    2. She sure did, but hers wasn't as curly as mine and therefore much easier to handle. Mine? ...a whole nother level!

      My day was good. I try to make every day good, and if it doesn't work, I get up the next day and try again. Much love to you my sister.

  8. What a wonderful post. The image of you with your head in his lap, weeping, is such a beautiful, bittersweet and abiding one --

    Merry Christmas to all of you!

  9. My dear friend is having a new normal Christmas as well. Her beloved husband died on July2 and this is the first Christmas without Bill. I know it is difficult, but it will get better. I can assure you of that. Keep the faith Miss Manning. And look for Deanna everywhere because her spirit still lives.

    1. Thank you, Mary Alice. I hope all is well in Philly!

  10. Your family is sooooooooo beautiful and Deanna will always be in the mix. Yes, the heart is an ever-expanding vessel...it always has room for more; more of everything, including sadness and pain, but joy is never crowded out.

    That is so evident in your family!

  11. So glad the day was filled with cheer and special moments. So cool your dad surprised you and everyone was together. The new normal is something else... Shug's Christmas text made me smile and worry a little less about how you all were handling the day. Love is all you need. Our holiday was special in DC. First year Maya got excited about Santa. She wrote a letter, we baked cookies...the whole deal. Deanna told me last year to use different wrapping paper. She was always giving me tips, as I am clueless about stuff like that. Miss her... love y'all.

    1. We love you, too, Nikki. Thanks for stopping by and for reaching out.

  12. From the deck of the Poop,
    There is nothing ole PoopDeck likes more than pulling one off with perfection and this was one of my best. Everything was aligned. Even when Harry stopped at the store for something and I was able to answer the phone as if I was still in LA. I'm still smiling about that . I know that my Plinko would have love it also. She liked devious things like her dad!

    Love the photos!!!!!



"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

Related Posts with Thumbnails