“We are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.” ―Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Psssst….Heather, wake up. Santa was here, “ came the urgent whisper of my brother.

I open my eyes to see Kevin pulling my stocking onto the bed. Wonder, barely contained as we opened our gifts, waiting for the moment that was deemed safe enough to wake up our parents.

My father, a grand torturer, savoured Christmas morning as retribution for a year’s worth of childish misbehaviour.

No presents could be opened until my dad was seated downstairs in his chair. No easy feat.

The general, who rose early every morning for 364 days of the year always seemed to have difficulty opening his eyes this particular day. Only the whisper of “Dad, we made you tea” seemed to rouse him. Oh, never has tea been drunk so slowly.

During this time, my father would contemplate his breakfast menu. “Hmm, shall I have eggs Benedict? No no, I think maybe waffles with some delicious whip cream. Or, perhaps French toast topped with fresh berries. Oh I don’t know…”

Our faces tortured and anxious, my mother would finally take pity on us and tell us to quickly help her make bacon and eggs.

As my father leisurely ate, we would show him our gifts so far. Hours seemed to pass, until my father lumbered from his bed to the bathroom. We took his absence as a chance to quickly make his bed. A man with such a stern military background could never go back to a made bed!

Finally, the moment arrives!

Like a king benevolently perched on his throne, my father would finally grant permission to open our presents. Our eyes wide as we looked under the tree. In our house, no gift was placed there until after we went to bed on Christmas Eve.

Some of those traditions, Scott and I have continued with our own children. Some were too torturous to have endured. But they are always remembered fondly.

This Christmas was the first we shared, without knowing where Ryan was. Difficult. Grievous. Agonizing.

Such is every moment before this day and every moment after.

But I want to share the love and the joy that we also experienced. From our friends and family that showered us with love and more importantly, their time during this busy season, to the good wishes, kind thoughts and prayers from each and every one of you. Our family never felt alone.

We honoured our past traditions while creating new ones.

Our lives will forever be a blend of what was, what is and what will be.

But isn’t that true for everybody?