The quiet solitude of the late Christmas Eve leaves me reminiscent of times past as I watch Abe and Kristin play Santa and Mrs. Claus with such love. I excuse myself before the midnight bells so they can have time together in this holy hour of peace and love.

Christmas morning with four little ones fills the day, the heart and the house. The clutter is easily described by taking a walk through a car and doll forest all the while watching out for small movable parts and small children. There are squeals of delight and the occasional sibling tiff over what is what and whose is whose, but easily deflected with sugar cookies (oh, so wrong on our part!!). Chaos rules the day until the littles head to a sugar-coated nap and we finish up dinner preparations. Steak on the grill, brussel sprouts with yams, pies and well, everything else grace our table. With the twins napping, we let the wine flow and well as conversations. Inside my Mary Poppins suitcase I brought Christmas crackers for all and we break them open at dinner.

This was the first time to use Christmas crackers here in the states. I ordered them specifically from England. I used them with Aaron and Rachel’s family, sent one on the train with Kathy, and brought the rest here. They were hand-made in a little town south of London and, after receiving them, I sent a note to the owner of the three-person business asking Julian, “When is the best time to use them?”

It was lovely to hear back from him and he was delighted his Christmas crackers were in the states. (Yes, I had to tell him where all they were going!) The crackers each had a crown, a small toy and a joke sheet, although most were full of British humor.

Later, after the twins have their fill of dinner, and later after the candles drip low, and later after I tell them all, “It’s almost Christmas!” we tuck them in, give a sigh and let the day become another memory full of stories.

Morning dawns with more chaos, but this time with another purpose. We clean and do laundry and pack the car as another journey waits for us. It is almost dark when all the work is done and the kids are loaded into the car with their backpacks full of toys and blankies. There is no super highway on our journey so we pass through small towns with holiday lights glowing in the winter darkness. Just as journeying with my own young family, the noise in the car and requests for bathrooms, and drinks, and the proverbial “Are we there yet?” pervades our conversations. As our destination looms closer, Abe and Kristin do what all parents do when they travel. “We are almost there. Can you smell the ocean yet?”

I am as excited as the kids. The ocean. The beach. It calls to all of us.

The first time Abe and Kristin visited Ocracoke they knew the East coast was calling to them. They sold their house in Phoenix, moved to Charleston and built a beach house on Oak Island. They are both in love with the water, the peacefulness, the beauty of the sea.

We arrive and the kids go crazy running up and down the steps, finding their rooms, spilling out their books and toys. I am to share the bunk beds with Brianna after passing little Faith on to Holly. We unpack, set out more Christmas cookies, a bottle of wine and send them all to bed. Brianna is waiting for me to read to her. I take turns on this trip reading to all of them one at a time; it does take a good amount of time, but they all clamor for the books and stories.

Brianna is wide awake when I finally go to bed. Even though it is chilly outside, I open our window to the sound of the ocean lapping up onto the shore. “That’s nice,” she says, and we read until we both fall asleep.

A few days at the beach with a handful of toys and books. A few days at the beach to listen to the birds sing on the marsh. A few days at the beach to keep our feet planted on the ground to know the joy of family and nature.

A few days to remember all that is fine and well and in this world.

Lou Ann Homan-Saylor lives in Angola at the White Picket Gardens where you can find her gardening or writing late into the night under the light of her frayed scarlet lamp. She is a storyteller, teacher, writer, actress and a collector of front porch stories. She can be contacted at locketoftime@aol.com.

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