Today I asked our oldest to draw me a picture from Christmas. “Midnight Mass, opening presents, your light sabers – something like that,” I suggested. “OK,” he said – finished a word in the comic book he was writing, and pulled over a fresh sheet of paper.
It _was_ a memorable occasion, midnight Mass. My husband and I debated whether we should try bringing the children, and decided to give it a go. I reasoned that the specialness of the occasion would make up for the loss of sleep. At any rate, it was worth a try.
We dressed the boys in their church clothes, then settled them down to get some sleep. The boys fell asleep quickly, except our six-year-old, who was too excited; but even he fell asleep on the floor just as we were waking everyone to go.
There was a brief chorus of wails as we put everyone in the car, and I felt truly sorry for the boys, feeling their interrupted sleep. But they soon dropped off again. When we arrived at the church parking lot my husband said, ‘Here we go,” in a tone which conveyed, “Let’s hope this works.”
The boys were soon awake and alive to the novelty of going to church at night. When we went inside, there was just enough space for all of us in the very back pew, and the congregants had their candles lighted already. Two enormous Christmas trees with bright stars on top flanked the altar, and on the gradine behind were cascades of poinsettias, interspersed with candles. The boys were silent and wrapt, listening to the chant which sounded like heaven on earth. (Asked his opinion about the music afterward, our oldest said, “It was creepy and mysterious. It sounded like monks.” I think that by “creepy” he may have meant “spine-tingling” or something similar.) After a minute or two our six-year-old stretched himself out on the pew, put his head on my lap, and promptly fell asleep.
The boys were quiet and still, as good as gold. Even the baby was very quiet – at first. As the Mass went on his level of activity increased. First he discovered to his glee that the pew had a ladder back, and set off to climb it, until prevented by his parents. Next he found that it was necessary to go from his mother’s arms, to his father’s arms, to his mother’s, many times in succession, stepping on his sleeping brother; but the kabosh was put on this fairly quickly. Finally at about three-quarters of the way through Mass he decided that there wasn’t enough singing being done by the congregation, and took it upon himself to supply the remedy. A fifteen-month-old singing solos is of course adorable, but not appropriate during Mass, so this, coupled with the fact that his next oldest brother had been asking repeatedly to go to the bathroom meant that it was time for mommy to take the two youngest out. But for all that things went marvelously well.
The boys slept in to the late hour of nine. “Mom! Mom! Santa was here!!” I kicked myself later, for not managing to drum up more excitement over Santa having come; but I was feeling like death warmed over, having woken up at 7:30 and found it impossible to go back to sleep. My husband had put the presents under the tree, after the boys went to sleep following Mass, but I spent another hour fussing over them with bows and whatnot before finally retiring at an early hour.
When the baby woke up, a little after the boys, it was time for opening presents.
“A light saber!” cried the first.
“A life saber!” cried the second.
“A light savior!” breathed the third.
Finally everyone got the words right (though the three-year-old’s version was a very good one for Christmas) and there have been many doughty battles since. Also a few bonks on the head, and tears, and wry admonitions from parents about sword-fighting being an activity that is inherently dangerous.
Now it is New Year’s Eve. It has been a goodly year, full of blessings. Happy New Year!