Ah, it’s Christmas time. The smell is in the air, the music fills our ears and the lights dazzle us with gleaming beauty. Bounties fill the carts, love fills our hearts and if you do it right, quickly from the supercenter, you shall soon depart.
Our little Charlie, who isn’t so little anymore, begins counting down the days to Christmas on or around the first day of spring. For him, it’s not about the presents or the material things, it’s family and joy that makes it the reason for the season.
Just so long as he doesn’t get a lump of coal, Charlie loves every Christmas minute. At church last Sunday, Charlie looked at me as the congregants lit the third Advent candle and said with the same wild-eyed amazement he has had since he was little, “It’s Christmas.”
And it is.
As Charlie marvels at the lights and the joy the season brings, my mind races. I have to purchase this, wrap that, and heaven help me, will I ruin the Christmas brisket for the third time in as many years?
This weekend our three older boys will be returning from their campus homes for Christmas break. Their presence will bring a smile to my heart, joy to my ears and (as I take in their bounty of dirty laundry) it will take my breath away.
I’m so grateful. Yet, I still shake in my snow boots because I know what’s coming. It will be big, it will be smelly and reminiscent of Vernon’s first Christmas break from his college home back in 2007.
Sadly enough, I wasn’t aware at the time that when children come back home, they bring upwards of 18 loads of soiled laundry with them. Is it just me, or do you think this should have been explained in advance at college orientation?
Quite frankly, I had never seen anything like it. I was in the middle of my fa-la-la-laing, when I heard a beeping noise in front of the house and thought that perhaps a semi truck had mistakenly taken our front porch for a loading dock.
I ran out the door just in time to see our illustrious Vernon standing on the lawn holding two glow sticks in the air as he helped a buddy navigate his rig up to the front door.
Faster than you can say, “Shout it out!” three young men hopped out of the vehicle, loaded large black bags of soiled laundry on their shoulders like jolly old elves and were making their way to the washing machine post-haste.
It was like a bad Christmas movie with sinister Santas.
“For the love of mistletoe, Vernon!” I screamed as I trailed behind. “What are you doing?”
“Oh,” he said as he turned to greet me with his award-winning smile. “Merry Christmas, Mo-there.” It was then that I noticed he was dressed in his Sunday best and looked as if he were running for Congress.
“Dude,” exclaimed one brother as he changed into in a freshly laundered shirt. “What’s with the suit?”
“Yeah,” said another as he changed his socks. “Are you in a wedding, or attending a Christmas pageant?”
“Nah,” explained Vernon as he pulled his Sunday best off his body and added it to the smelly pile. “These were the only clothes I had that were still clean.”
“Perhaps it was a big misunderstanding on my part,” I said as I clutched an evergreen for strength, “but I could have sworn that university brochure said the dorms had washing machines and matching dryers strategically placed for easy use.”
“Oh, they do,” Vernon said as he pulled off his dress socks. “But I thought I would bring my laundry home anyway.”
Over the years, Vernon’s brothers followed suit. Upon every return from their campus homes, I am gifted with love, hugs and enough dirty laundry to choke a reindeer.
At least they think of me in their absence. They make sure they bring me something and as I ponder their return home this weekend, I know my Christmas stocking won’t be empty because they will be bringing me enough work to make Santa’s workshop look like a day spa.
Quite frankly, I think I would settle for a lump of coal.
Lori Clinch is the mother of four sons and the author of the book “Are We There Yet?” You can reach her by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.