Let me share a picture with you.
This is our Christmas Tree.
We woke up in a rush on Friday morning and counted the hours on our fingers, designating events to time slots.
One little is sick. That takes priority and so we slide off one event from the day's plan.
The medicine gets divided up into two bottles, instructions and diagnosis documented.
We drive to the local nursery, 15 minutes away because we wont make it to the farm an hours drive away today. Theres no fuss however. We're all used to the compromise here.
No taller than anyone can decorate themselves.
No more than $40.
All 4 littles must unanimously decide.
This one. This is the one. Quick, lets take our picture.
Its our first tree as a family. Our first living tree in more years than were willing to unpack from memories.
Can we look at ornaments?
1..2..3...sure. Sure theres time. Lets look.
At home we let the littles cluster around the television together while Ian and I assemble lunch plates. Theres a lot of Thanksgiving left overs but this is the last time they will all eat it together. We periodically glance out the front window at cars that slow by our drive.
We move a little faster.
"Clara, Henry....Jackets...say goodbye."
I glance at our Christmas tree still in its orange netting leaning against the wall where it will stand, and I move quickly to zip a jacket; tuck a strand of hair.
"Do you have your medicine? Dont forget it! Have fun! We love you!"
In the foyer we take a moment. From here they cant see smiles falter.
Iris and Aeva are next and they have the longest stretch of time. Holidays are often unforgiving in how they parcel out the minutes. They will be gone a week and a half.
"We're meeting daddy at the Px! Cmon, lets get in the truck littles!"
They know the way it goes. Iris shelves her books and removes the scarf I gave her. Aeva fishes out the beat-up black shoes and returns her new snow jackets to the closet. She pulls on a hoodie. Sometimes things do not properly return for a season or two. Sometimes theyre not allowed to move items back and forth.
"Will I see you Monday?"
"Yes. But not this coming Monday."
"Why? Why today?"
"Because its Daddy's turn"
We arrive 2 minutes early. I use them up, carrying Aeva down from the truck. Nuzzling her nose and kissing her furrowed eyes. I hold Iris close and breathe in her hair. Kiss her cheek and she watches me silently. She never really speaks to me when she goes. Like the volume gets turned off on my favorite radio station. She simply looks back and walks away.
"I love you. I will see you soon. You'll have fun. Call you tomorrow?" I call out until theyre gone from ear shot.
I smile so they will see it if they watch.
We stayed out late.
We bought every Little an ornament. We bought lights and christmas gifts.
Ginger bread houses and craft decorations.
We lugged home bags of things to store.
We got a tree stand.
Stood up the evergreen and watered her.
And left her bare.
Because that is OUR Christmas tree and this month we will only have all 4 of our children 11 days.
In those 11 days we will transform that naked tree into a thing loved and hung with all our lights and colored orbs.
Until then we push pause and we wait.
That is how its like when you share your children. You count minutes and days and leave things waiting in the eaves until they can be there with you again.
Its a hollow thing.