And The Christmas Miracles Abounded…

cropped-img_3885.jpgI believe in magic; I’ve said it before. I believe that magic presents itself to us in ways that we don’t always recognize or appreciate, but it’s magic just the same. I believe in goodness. I believe it outweighs bad, when all the numbers are added up and all the final words are in. Though it often appears the other way around, I believe that good prevails. I believe in Christmas. I believe in Christmas as more than the poofed-up, materialistic, shopper’s-drug-of-choice, commercialized, free-for-all, that so many people call it. I believe. And this year, it all came together in a perfect storm of Christmas perfection.

If you missed all the fun last week, lucky you. I was in the hospital; things were quite scary, and Christmas was looking pretty iffy… at best. Let’s face it, I am Christmas in my house. My husband and my kids are Jewish; they love Christmas, but it’s Mom that pulls it off each year. I live for the ritual dinners, the boxes and bows, the music, the tree, the lights, the swirl of family and friends… the whole shebang! I love Christmas. They love spinning in the vortex I create. And so, when I was still in the hospital days before Christmas:  a few key presents still not purchased; no dinner planned or groceries bought; gifts unwrapped; kids flying home; the tree not purchased, let alone lit and decorated… it was looking a bit bleak. Hell, it was looking hopeless.

And then the miracles began. They started with a low buzz: some well wishes and hopes for me to feel better:  comments on Facebook, emails to encourage me, offers to help. It started as a trickle and then it was a giant tsunami of support and care. The comments multiplied and buoyed me. For days, I was told not to speak… For anyone who knows me, not prone to pregnant pauses and long silences, this was in and of itself, a Christmas Miracle for some!  My boys grinned and smirked, that I could not talk. My friends, admonished me: “Shhh,” with wicked merriment in their eyes.  Cookies appeared on our doorstep; meals were dropped off; friends jumped in and offered to help my husband, my youngest son and our exchange student, as they figured out how to keep things working without me. My older son, Middle Man, arrived home and jumped right in. Accustomed to having me cook his favorite dinner upon coming home, instead he took the boys grocery shopping on December 23rd… the craziest day I can imagine… and the three boys bought Christmas dinner supplies, food for the house, and things we were running low on. They dealt with a butcher who couldn’t conceive of three young guys buying that much Prime Rib. “Were they sure they knew what cut they wanted?” They negotiated their way around Trader Joes and the larger supermarket, to find the specific things I prefer to have and use. They fed themselves and (mostly) cleaned up. They figured out what I would need when I was home, and made sure that was here too. They divided, and conquered.

A lit tree welcomed me home.

A lit tree welcomed me home.

My youngest, Little Man, and our exchange student, Germany, went to the Christmas Tree lot and picked out a tree. Most years we go to a tree farm we all love, hike out in the cold, and select and cut our own tree; and then have pizza nearby. This year, as I still lay in the hospital, the boys went out on their own to a local tree lot; chose a nice tree; got it loaded on the car, and brought it home, and then they put the lights on for me.  I am the only one who does the lights on our tree, but, this year, my 17-year-old son made my homecoming perfect, with a gorgeous tree all lit up!  We always get an 8-10′ tree, and so when my husband warned me: “It’s a bit of a Charlie Brown tree,” I prepared myself for the let down, and practiced gracious ways of saying thank you. Instead, that lovely little tree is one of the prettiest we’ve ever had! The fact that my boys went out and did that for me, means the world, and made my homecoming fantastic!  It’s a Christmas miracle, I told them, and meant it.

All decked out...

All decked out…

Each year, since my two oldest kids left for college, decorating the tree has become a balancing act, and honestly, I haven’t always found it that easy.  I love having the tree up and decorated for a while.  I don’t like rushing it, or having it be an afterthought. I love having the smell of pine in my house, the lights on each night, and the decorations that I’ve been collecting for more than 30 years, on display to enjoy.  After a lifetime of doing it together, a couple of weeks before Christmas, choices had to be made when our daughter, Principessa, left for college, five years ago. As much as I wanted the tree up and ready, I couldn’t decorate it without her there– just couldn’t do it.  So, we waited until she got home for winter break that first year.  It felt strange leaving the tree without ornaments for a while, but then that became our new tradition. We waited. Two years later Middle Man, left for college, and we waited for him as well. Then, Principessa moved to Israel, and we had our first Christmas without her.  My heart felt heavy that year, but it’s all part of the ever-changing fabric of raising kids. Our traditions shift and change, and while I remember the years past, I’ve learned to embrace new ways.

A gift from my Mom

A gift from my Mom

This year, the boys and I all came together on the 23rd, when I was finally strong enough. The boxes of ornaments were laid out, and our little tree waited… We have a lot of ornaments; far more than this little tree could hold. So, we chose the most precious, the ones we love the most. Germany is away from his family for the first time, and he shared stories of their family traditions. My boys took turns putting their favorite ornaments on the tree; we listened to Christmas music, and remembered past holidays. We placed my girl’s favorite ornaments on there for her; we carefully unwrapped all of our treasures, and I watched that little tree spring to life.  Just as I thought we were finished, I saw an old gift tag in the box, which I’ve saved for years. It was on a gift from my mother, so many years ago– before she was sick, when her handwriting was her own, when my babies were young… There it was, “To Dawn, my 1st baby, Love, Mom,”  and I cried. Who knows why I saved it all those years ago, but this year, that little angel felt like another Christmas Miracle… one week before the 2nd anniversary of Mom’s death.

photo photo img_3890.jpg IMG_3885

Christmas Eve morning began with a true miracle. I was sitting in my kitchen, watching the water of Puget Sound, and thinking about my girl. Principessa had told me that she’d be spending Christmas Eve in Bethlehem. As I sat there, I was imagining that with the time difference, she was either on her way there or in the city…. and the phone rang. When I picked up the line, there was an explosion of sound and my girl’s joyful voice. “Mom, I’m here in Bethlehem, at the Church of the Nativity, listen!”  I could hear the magic across the lines.  “A man from the Andes in full garb on the Arab bus; a choir from Korea, in their traditional costumes, singing carols; venders selling grilled corn and hot chestnuts and special spiced foods; people praying and rejoicing all around me!” I could hear it; I could feel it! She was crying, I was crying, as a Korean choir sang Oh Holy Night and then a round of traditional carols. It was like picking up the phone and hearing angels sing.  As I listened to the stunning beauty of the music, the sounds of the street, my girl so full of wonder and joy… for the first time in our lives, I truly felt that she understood what Christmas once meant to me. I will hold that sweetest of moments, shared with my daughter, for the rest of my life. I had chills all day… and my temperature was fine.

Bethlehem by night, photographed by my daughter, E.L.L.

Bethlehem by night, photographed by my daughter, E.L.L.

From the hospital room this week, as the doctors debated letting me go home, my head was spinning. Christmas Eve and Christmas night are a big deal in our home. I generally cook a prime rib each Christmas Eve, and a ham with potatoes au gratin on Christmas, with all of the trimmings. Others come to our house every year; we couldn’t recall having ever been to anyone else’s house for Christmas. I could feel panic set in, even as I waited for the discharge papers. What will we do for Christmas? How will I pull this off… I couldn’t help but think, will Christmas just be another dinner, with my boys and me? I never had to say the words out loud. Good friends didn’t skip a beat: “Come for Christmas Eve; we’ll do everything, just get yourself over here.”  So my first outing in 10 days was for Christmas Eve.  My first few days home, had been a bit bumpy: my first morning I fell and cut my head, just trying to get a drink of water; clearly things were not normal. After hospital “gowns” and pjs for so long, it actually felt strange to just put on clothes again, let alone step outside and socialize, but off we went for Christmas Eve.

Germany shares an Italian cake, on Christmas Eve

Germany shares an Italian cake, on Christmas Eve

Note to self:  Having been in the hospital for five days, and having eaten lots of Ritz crackers for days on end, it’s perhaps not wisest to jump right back in, with 5 dozen fresh oysters, a grapefruit cocktail and cheese appetizers. It seemed like a good idea, when it was all laid out before me. I wanted so badly to dive in and pretend everything was normal for a little while.  It tasted oh so good. Sublime, even. I almost felt like myself again… Until I was sick for an hour, as my stomach adjusted to the idea of Christmas miracles. A break with games, and lots of laughs, helped me get ready for round two. Our friends prepared an incredible meal of grilled shrimp, scallops, home-made traditional grits, and salad… and this time, I paced myself. We all joined together at the table to celebrate Christmas Eve, and did what we do best together: laughed, and eat, and soak in all that holiday cheer. It was just what the doctors should have ordered.

As the evening came to a close, I was tired and we got ready to go home… and then, my sweet friend, S, asked: “Are you going to come to church with us?”  Let’s be clear here, our family is Jewish; I haven’t been to church in more than 30 years; the thought had not occurred to me, before that moment. I had been busting his 18 year-old chops about going to Midnight services, because it was special to his mom, and he was busting my chops in return, when he asked. But in that moment, with Christmas miracles stacking up, I said “Yes.” I’m pretty sure the entire group did a major double take. There was probably a moment’s concern:  the ground might in fact tremble if my long-sinning self walked through those doors. It’s been that long. It was long night; it was hard to be there, as my physical exhaustion set in, but I felt so connected to my grandmother (who helped raise me, and who I adored), my grandfather, the Christmases of my childhood, the things I’ve let go along the way, in choosing to raise my children in the Jewish faith. The prayers were familiar, words I once knew so well. The carols were so beautiful in that big place, where sound echoed and settled on me. I was with a lovely young girl, who recently lost her own mother (far too young), and we shared a special moment acknowledging our Moms, and our loss, as well as the fortune of being together right there in that moment.

And then, everyone lit a candle, the lights were lowered and the entire congregation sang all four verses of Silent Night. All of my life, long after I was too big, I would sit on my grandmother’s lap, or beside her, when this song came on.  It’s the most special of carols for me. As the beautiful sound surrounded me, I was overcome with emotion… I felt myself let go of some grief; I felt myself held by those I’ve loved, lost and still miss, and I felt myself surrounded by so much love and support. When I came home, very late and very tired… I quietly decked our tree with candy canes (a tradition I started when the kids were little… evidence that Santa has come), took a moment to enjoy the quiet house and the beautiful tree, and then put on my oxygen and went to bed… feeling content, and blessed.

IMG_3909Christmas morning dawned bright and clear. We are a house full of big kids and adults now; we’ve become a civilized group. There’s no racing to the living room. No tearing of packages and the wonderful, crazy mayhem of our early days as parents of young children. We skyped with Germany’s family (as they enjoyed their Christmas dinner); we made our coffees and teas; we put on the Christmas music and put out the annual almond torte, and we opened our gifts.  We took our time, letting each person enjoy their gifts, and the quiet and fun of being together.

Luke loves Christmas morning!

Luke loves Christmas morning!

Christmas Evening was our gig. The kids helped me pull it all together and our friends from Christmas Eve, came to our house to share in another day of celebrating, along with my sister, brother-in-law and niece. My 14-year-old niece and I made individual Yorkshire Puddings to go with the Prime Rib; my brother-in-law knocked it out of the park with potatoes au gratin, and my sister added a killer salad.  My sister and I have a complex relationship… it’s been kicked around and battered by Huntington’s Disease and hard family history. But this Christmas, it was simple. I was so happy to have her there, and we just fell into an easy, good place. Christmas miracles galore! It all felt so easy and good… friends, family, easy laughs, kind gestures, good food, and real Christmas magic. It was just so easy and real. No crazy food wrangling, or efforts to make it all “perfect.”  I just enjoyed the evening, and enjoyed all the good melting down on me.


Yorkshire pudding

Yorkshire pudding

At the end of the day… after two big days of festivities, and feeling exhaustion begin to overwhelm me, I found myself alone in the living room again. I sat with my thoughts, and let this crazy week settle over me. Two weeks ago, there is no way I could have predicted any of this. I would not have imagined being sick and in the hospital. I had expectations of Christmas, my kids, my family, friends and of myself that all shifted in a few short days.  I lay on the floor and looked up through the tree, the lights and ornaments sparkling and twinkling– something I’ve done every year, since I was a little girl– and I breathed in deeply, taking in all the good that I have had this Christmas. My Christmas tree shimmered and my heart was full… And Christmas miracles abounded.

Gazing up through the tree... taking in the magic.

Gazing up through the tree… taking in the magic.

Do you believe in magic? Tell me about your Christmas; leave a comment. Have you had a Christmas when things didn’t line up, when it all went better (or worse) than you anticipated?  Share your thoughts.

In the spirit of the season, and because I’m flagrantly peddling, hit the Like; then, Share this post, if you liked it.  Check out Tales From the Motherland, on Facebook and Like me again. I love to be liked, and if you believe in the big karma picture, it’s bound to come back and kiss you.

A big thank you to Carol Cameleon over at Virtually All Sorts, who nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Blogs Award. I recently shared this award with some other great bloggers, so I’m passing on the usual round of links and questions about me. It’s all here on TFTM and I’m still taking it easy as I recover.  I am thankful to great readers and supports of my blog, like Carol (check out her book here), who take the time to read my work and share it. Thanks Carol!

About Dawn Quyle Landau

Mother, Writer, treasure hunter, aging red head, and sushi lover. This is my view on life, "Straight up, with a twist––" because life is too short to be subtle! Featured blogger for Huffington Post, and followed on Twitter by LeBron James– for reasons beyond my comprehension.
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45 Responses to And The Christmas Miracles Abounded…

  1. Your Christmas sounded gorgeous and lovely and so very just , (‘:

    Mine was less than what I had imagined, but in many ways what I probably needed so haha little kick ass tough to the curb miracle for me .
    I didn’t know you went to the hospital so I hope everything gets better and for you to stay well, happy holidays !


  2. kjlangton says:

    So glad you were embraced in the warmth of family, friends, and Christmas. Here’s to a year of good health!


  3. Nicola says:

    That is one hell of a Christmas you had there! Sounds like you have an awesome team around you. I’m trying to write a blog post about my Christmas right now; we spent it in Dubai this year, where my parents moved in January. Suffice it to say that it’s a very different experience than Christmas in the uk! But I think by coming somewhere that doesn’t really do Christmas, it’s helped me to realise which bits of it I really like the most, and which parts I can do without. I really enjoyed this post 🙂


    • Welcome to Tales From the Motherland, Nicola, and Merry Christmas in Dubai! I appreciate you taking the time to check out my blog and read this post, as well as leaving a thoughtful comment. It truly was a hell of Christmas, and yes, I am lucky to have quite a team around me! A Christmas miracle in itself, as the team effort is not always a given. 😉 Wow, Dubai! That is something I’ll look forward to reading… get on that! It’s when we step outside our comfort zones that we often learn the most, so it’s not surprising your reassessing your holidays. Thanks again for taking the time, it’s much appreciated!


  4. A marvelous story Dawn, my Christmas stories are best read at these links:

    I am very happy for you that you are home. i hope you continue to grow strong and I hope to see you round the blog world soon.


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  6. So glad you’re better and that Christmas truly was the miracle– sounds wonderful and your prime rib and yorkshire puds look divine. Love the phone call from Israel too. xo for 2014!


  7. Cathy Ulrich says:

    Excited to see your post, Dawn. I had been thinking of you a lot over Christmas and wondering how you were faring. It warms my heart so that it couldn’t have been more perfect for you, family and friends. We had a wonderful time – Christmas Eve fondue with friends, and home together for Christmas – Face Time with my sister, calls with wonderful family and an outrageous Maine Lobster dinner that I had ordered before we left for Bonaire.

    You know, I think Christmas is most magical when we can let go of old expectations and patterns. And that’s exactly what you did this year.

    Hugs, my friend,


    • You had me at fondue… you slayed me with lobster! What a life, Cathy… we would indeed, be grand friends! Thanks for all the support and warm thoughts. I felt it, and it’s helped so much! You’re absolutely right, of course… letting go of expectations, made all the difference. Hugs back at ya’! dawn


  8. Lots of tears here reading this! I’ll write about my christmas in the coming days no doubt… x


  9. Oh your post brought tears to my eyes. I’m so glad you had a magical Christmas. I believe in it too. Ours wasn’t we hoped for this year, but I had the best day still with my husband and son. Our tree wasn’t perfect but it was beautiful to me. I’m away from all my friends and my side of the family here in Germany, but it certainly was still magical. Hope you continue to recover. Hugs.



    • Deanna, Welcome to Tales From the Motherland! Thanks for taking the time to read this post and share your thoughts; the effort is much appreciated! I imagine, being far from friends and family makes it so much harder! I’ve spent the vast portion of my marriage (30 yrs) away from “home,” and every year I make family around me… but some years were much harder than others! I hope you find some fun and joy in the New Year, and I look forward to your new posts. Feel free to check out other posts on TFTM and let me know what you think… now that your lips aren’t sealed, I’d love to hear what you have to say! 😉


  10. mamaheidi60 says:

    Once again, your writing goes right to the heart and tugs at familiar emotions for me as well. Our Christmas was also very different. Because G is so fragile, was in ER one night when you were in hospital, we/I have continued with really living one day at a time, nothing to do with addiction, just with reality. For the first time in years, we did not go to our wonderful Christmas Eve candlelight service, my favorite of the year. Your description brought tears to my eyes, knowing a little bit about the impact of the silence, the glowing, growing light. A friend posted pictures of our service, but it’s not the same. But, I knew we couldn’t do that and also have energy for Christmas day. Choices, choices. And, for the first time in 28 years, daughter wasn’t home with us either. She was with her partner, joining in her partner’s traditions for Christmas Eve. They drove around to look at lights with the 3 girls. Funny, they go to our church, but have never gone to the Candlelight service. G & I decided that since it was only the 2 of us, we could change it up. Going with the flow, realizing some things we had no control over, and others we did. We have, for 62 years of my life, had a traditional oyster stew with breads and cheeses for Christmas Eve supper, after service. This year, we had a fish feast with oyster stew, shrimp and bacon wrapped scallops. For years and years, I’ve made cinnamon rolls and breakfast strata. This year, cheesy, scrambled eggs and bacon with mimosa for me, coffee for G. The 2 of us opened our gifts. G did his morning routines of meds and nebulizers. We went to Bellevue to my sister’s for Christmas dinner. I brought my 2 trifles. But, seriously, I was prepared to call the girls, tell them to come pick up the trifles because we were staying home. I did not know until about noon whether or not we would head south. G felt great and we made it to Bellevue in time for dinner. It was just such a lovely day! G held court telling stories of his one year of farming out on the Y Road. He was in his element. Then, as only my family can do, the talk turned to the difference between men and women – specifically it turned to anatomical, sexual differences. There we were, ages 11-72, talking about the media representations of the sexes. Then, we moved on to the differences in Greek and Roman nude statues. It was a great day, all in all. We didn’t leave until midnight! I was sure G would have wanted to leave by 8. He was definitely energized by the family love. The girls all spent the night, third year in a row, for a Seattle day on the 26th. My sister’s family leaves for a ski trip and the girls all sleep in, then head out for Seattle fun. So, today, the 27th, daughter will be over for a bit and we’ll give her her present. We gave her most of them to have with the girls, but decided we wanted to have at least a bit of time alone with her. Tomorrow, the girls and I all head for family camp on the Hood Canal, minus G, but first time for the girls! I’m so excited to have them, but again, adjusting to going to family camp without G. Well Dawn, once again, you’ve provided me with the opportunity to do some writing, which, quite frankly, I’ve never done much of. Happy New Year sweet friend! May it all be new, sparkly and fulfilling for us and our families, growing and shrinking simultaneously! Love you!


    • I’m sorry that your holiday was impacted by health, like mine… it’s bitter sweet, for sure. I hear that you enjoyed some unexpectedly joyful moments with the man you love, your partner in life… but I also hear the pain of watching him struggle, losing those traditions that are sacred– interesting, that I found myself at services and you were not… imagine, I was there for you, and my heart sends you the beauty of that moment… I hope your time at Hood Canal is filled with more laughter and joy, and that this coming year brings some relief for G. Thanks for taking the time to share such sweet, and challenging moments. Love you too. xo


  11. 1EarthUnited says:

    Simply precious, your life is truly blessed, thanks for sharing the true meaning of Christmas and your indomitable spirit! God bless♥


  12. Mike Lince says:

    There must have been a little smoke in the air because my eyes kept watering as I tried to make out your words. It is all clear now, and I love that you had so many blessings to make your Christmas special.

    I have never cared much for Christmas because my family of origin sucked at things like giving and sharing. Things improved as I raised my own children, but I never got over the oppressive feeling that I needed to buy stuff I could ill-afford to make Christmas happen. Each year I breathe a sigh of relief as Christmas Day passes, having survived it for another year. This year we hosted an American couch surfer through the holidays, an adventurous young woman whom we had met in Scotland and sort of adopted. We prepared a special lamb roast dinner to share with her before she set out back on the road. We did not exchange gifts this year, which is good because there is no room in our luggage for more stuff. Florence attended midnight mass on Christmas Eve. People were stacked five deep outside the doors of the cathedral, underscoring how Catholic Croatia is. I am not sorry I missed that, although I am told the choir was magnificent. Just hearing how wonderful Christmas was for you and others is all the holiday cheer I need to know this was another great time for family and friends. Our hosts brought us wine. I lift my glass to your good health. Salud! – Mike


    • While the Chrismases of my childhood were filled with much love, lots of family, and wonderful memories… they were still very focused on gifts. My grandmother was Christmas… the incarnation of it, for all it’s incredible sweetness as well as it’s over the topness. I loved that about her, and I am well aware that she and I were always alike. I was named for her, my birth name being JoAnn Dawn. As I get older, and my kids are settling into their own faiths, I feel freer to express this holiday that means a lot to me. I imagine I will make it very different for my grandchildren, released from the expectation to make Judaism central. That, will be for my kids to figure out. 😉 Thanks for sharing, Mike. Must admit, I so wish you had gone to mass… it must have been truly amazing in a place like Croatia! Christmas mass is a very special thing… go next year. xo


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  14. You DID do the Yorkshire puds! Yay! I’m so glad you’re home, and that everyone conspired to make Christmas a good one for you, Dawn. Sometimes things do work out after all. It’s heartwarming, isn’t it? And I’m so glad you’re feeling better. Take good care of yourself, lady. And Happy New Year!


    • The Yorkshire pudding were divine! Had to use butter instead of pan drippings… I know, sacrilege, but they were yummy! If truth be told, I don’t think anyone really conspired for my magic Christmas, but that’s what makes it all a miracle… it all fell into a lovely place. 😉 Thanks again for all your support and kind words. I have 2-3 wks of lying low at home… still using some O2 at night, but much, much better overall! I hope we all have a fantastic New Year! Thanks so much for reading my post, always makes me smile. 😉



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