Last night I attended the annual Twin City Home Educators Mom's Christmas Party.
Is was, indeed, the party-to-end-all parties.
Fourteen of us braved the cold, dark night to drive wayyyyy out to Suzy's farm. Okay, so it wasn't that cold, and some were very familiar with the road, but for those of us who had only been there once before (last year's party) and who have nightblindness (didn't mention that to the women riding with me) finding a mailbox on the side of a country road can be an adventure!
All was well until we came to the gate. We knew we were in the right place, vividly remembered coming down the hill and over the little bridge last year. But yet we sat in the middle of the drive, staring at this closed gate, wondering what to do. Why would a gate be closed on the night of a party? Were we in the right driveway? We could see the lights of the carriage house through the trees, this must be it. For whatever reason, three grown women could not decide to open the gate. So we started making calls. Susan, in her most patient voice, said, "Just get out and open the gate, it is closed so the animals don't escape." Oh. About that time another car pulled in behind us, so Elizabeth hopped out and opened the gate, we all drove through, she closed the gate and we headed to the party! We were not, btw, the only ones to face uncertainty at the gate. Angel got to the gate, couldn't get anyone to answer their cells, and turned around and started for home. We managed to persuade her to come back and spend the evening with us, to everyones' benefit. I had to call Betty and tell her I had given her poor directions. But, we all made it to the carriage house.
The carriage house is like stepping into a Christmas card - it is rustic and charming, beautifully decorated with country antiques. Every luxury, from coffee to an assortment of teas and cocoas was assembled. No detail forgotten, down to the bowl of marshmallows by the cocoa.
We all brought food, and we laughed and ate. You would think we were starving from the cheers that went up when Debi arrived carrying the boxes from Pizza Hut! Never was a pizza guy so greeted!
After we ate, we had a time of devotion and prayer. So many joys were shared, so many concerns. As homeschool moms, so much of the focus on any of our gathering is our children. Prayer requests for sons in the military, those leaving for new duty stations, for adult children and their families, for direction with children at home, prayers for young mothers with small children, for our husbands, our friends, for those who could not be with us. Praises sang out for Debi, who announced at the party two years ago that she had breast cancer. Yep, the same Debi who after chemo, surgery, and reconstruction was bringing us pizza. And with a full head of her own hair, at that. For Lettie, who will "bring forth" her third son next week (and yes, there were jokes about her being "great with child"). And a wonderful reading from Sheila, from her blog, Sheila's Dots and Daisies.
And then, after we cried out to the Lord....we open presents. I always think this is funny, to go from meaningful readings and prayer to a raucous game of stealing, shaking and occasionally sniffing wrapped gifts. But last night I saw it for what it was. We come together, these sisters, in prayer, in sorrow, in joy, and most especially, in laughter. The fun of stealing a certain wrapped package and seeing the games that are played, the strategies worthy of Survivor, to get a box that has appealed to you - with no idea what is inside. And then, at the end, for everyone to declare they got the most perfect gift for them.
I got a beautiful baking cookbook - tell me God was not at the party with us last night!
After the game, more snacks, more coffee. I so enjoyed watching the ladies move about from group to group. No one was left out. Friends who had not seen each other in a year quickly caught up. A small group was laughing out loud...a few feet away two women were hugging and there were tears..I got to spend an hour in conversation with my dear friend who also has four boys, and whose steps I follow in so many ways. I watched a younger mom just looking at everyone and taking it all in, and I remember the first few years that I was in this group. I watched the "old timers" who had been there for more than a decade already, and I saw their interactions, heard their stories, and knew that this was a place I wanted to belong.
And I do. From the very first night, when Anita was talking about cooking the natural way in relation to learning problems and Debi was discussing the price of wheat grinders (to grind your own wheat for flour, can you imagine!) and Betty was nursing Connor, I knew that this was the place for me. Some faces have changed over the years, some have moved, gone on as their children have grown up. We have some mothers in our group whose own mothers and mother-in-laws are also in the group - I pray that someday I will be sitting in the group with my daughter-in-laws, listening to them wonder how to teach math to one, reading to another and keep the baby occupied at the same time. And we will share how we did it. How we do it. With much prayer, with God's mercy on our endeavor. Wavering, but always coming back to the vision that God placed on us.
I got home about 2:30 a.m. I was unable to sleep (3 cups of coffee after 11 p.m. will do that to you). I looked over the pictures that were taken, laughed again at the ones of the mom modeling the bright pink Snuggie she received as a gift (I did promise not to post those pictures, so you will just have to use your imagination). And I looked at our group shot - another year, so many of the same faces, newer faces as well. And I thought of those regulars from the group that could not be there this night because of things that could not be changed; family obligations, or illness. I missed them.
For many of us, this is a night that we try to never miss, for whom this night is a "night of all nights" - one to look forward to all year, one of the highlights of the Christmas season. I am one of these. I am so thankful for a husband who understands this need, for sons who don't fuss about being handed a pizza and being told to put their own pepperoni on - because it is Mom's night, and she is heading out to the Homeschool Mom Christmas Party.