brown paper packages…and puke

Puke. Puke and brown paper packages. Welcome to Christmas at our house. It all began with my grand plan. Instead of staying up late many nights of December, I had blocked out the 24th as Gift Wrapping Day. It was going to be genius! Hot chocolate, music, tape, bows, ribbons, gifts, and done. It was going to be relaxing. Enjoyable. Festive. Time to spend together. It was going to be great.

It wasn’t.

It wasn’t, because Wrapapalooza 2015 never happened. And it was all my fault. Or at least, I was the first one to start throwing up. In the wee small hours of the 24th, my stomach tightened, and flipped and expelled everything. With enough force to make my ribs ache.

The next morning I took one look at Eleanor’s face and yelled ‘Run! Run! Run to the toilet!’. She nearly made it.

We both huddled in our beds, weak and puny, as the hours ticked by. I can rally, I kept thinking, after just a few more minutes. Cue sunset—and no progress. Eleanor managed to write a message to Santa—worried that if he came in to give his traditional sooty kiss on the forehead he’d get the flu as well, and that would be a disaster of worldwide proportions.


The next time I voluntarily left the bed was the 2:40 am emergency bathroom scrub I did for Cole. He’d nearly made it as well.

By dawn on Christmas day, Santa had wrapped exactly two gifts. The rest? Re-taped boxes, stapled shut bags and hastily wound tissue paper. Each present had a simple sticky note identifying ‘to’ and ‘’love’—all obviously written by my hand, no matter the gifter or giftee. (Santa had managed to type his at the last minute in a fancy font and crossed his fingers that no one heard the whir of the printer).

We gathered around the tree, with strategically placed bowls at our feet. Opening our gifts took forever. Pry one open, fall asleep. Open another, run for the bathroom. All I could think was Worst Christmas Ever.


It wasn’t.

Maybe it wasn’t because we had shed every expectation of what we thought the day should be—and instead we were simply grateful for the one we were having. Maybe because it took all of our energy just to be sitting upright. Regardless of the reason, there was no sniping, no eye rolling. No ‘turn off the video camera!’ said in a strained whisper as what started as a sweet moment degraded into real life.

Instead it was a day of soft sighs. Of contented moments. Of true happiness. You could see it in their eyes. The shine of being together mixed with the glaze of illness. So it turns out brown paper packages are a few of my favorite things. Because they brought kindness. And laughter. And love.

Despite the puke, despite the tree, it truly was our best. Christmas. Ever. Even our teenager thought so.




How was your holiday? What did you dread that instead brought joy? We all have a story, I’d love to hear yours.


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