Nachos and tree salesmen and the best Christmas movie

A week or so ago, my husband and I, our youngest son, and my son’s girlfriend gathered around a Christmas movie in our living room, plates of super nachos on our laps.

(Super nachos, for the uninitiated, are like regular nachos but super-er because we get to eat them instead of just wishing we were eating them.)

Ready to kick back after a hectic week, we flipped through options on the television, finally landing on one of the seemingly hundreds of made-for-TV Christmas movies that flood the airwaves every December.

It was a silly fluff-piece, as such movies seem to be. Harried city girl has chance encounter with handsome, down-home Christmas tree salesman; the twosome overcome obstacles and sidestep plot holes through a series of improbable coincidences, and all ends with sparkles and sweetness.

We munched our nachos as we watched, the room dim and bright in the light of the tiny bulbs snaking their way around the room. In the corner stood our Christmas tree, listing toward the wall in stubborn refusal to stand up straight. Its recalcitrant angle echoed our breathless laughter the afternoon Jonah, my husband, and I fought it and finally gave up, calling it good enough.

I tugged a chip free and ate it, licking a drop of cheese sauce from my fingers. A blanket covered my legs as I nestled into the recliner. My laptop computer, usually on my lap in the evenings as I busily multi-task through several dozen open tabs, lay closed and quiet at my elbow.

The next chair over, my husband, at last done working for the day, propped his feet on an ottoman and dug into his chips, unfinished tasks and unmet needs set aside as a cat curled up on his lap.

On the couch, my son and his girlfriend giggled at a moment of movie silliness, she leaning familiarly against his shoulder and he looking content with who he is and who he was with.

On the screen, small-town residents shook their heads at the antics of the tree salesman and the city girl who refused to see they were falling in love.

You couldn’t make an argument that the movie was good, and you could make a pretty strong case for it being quite bad.

But, when I look back at this Christmas season, I’ll remember that evening as one of the good parts.

When Christmas comes, moms are supposed to bring the magic, unwrapping tradition and concocting precious moments that live for decades, cherished by their children forever.

I’m not that kind of mom. Holidays at our house are always weird, a haphazard jumble of non-tradition and trees that may or may not get ornaments and an utter lack of Christmas cookie-baking.

That’s OK with my people, bless their hearts. The kids embrace our family motto of “Riddles do things differently,” rallying behind unconventional decisions like the Thanksgiving we spent in Canada eating super nachos instead of turkey.

Still, I can’t help thinking I should be doing Christmas better. Creating peace. Offering joy. Showing love by getting it right.

In a gentle living room, in the glow of tiny light bulbs, I and my loved ones watched an unimportant movie, and for a few, quiet moments, nothing else mattered.

I needed that.

Surrounded by a world full of hurts I long to soothe and battles I long to fight, an uncertain future looming ahead of me, I needed a moment where nothing mattered but the Christmas tree salesman and his new romance and the young people smiling on my couch and the cat purring on a lap.

I needed a moment to remember that it’s not my job, at Christmas time, to bring the peace, and the joy, and the love.

That came to Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.

And it comes, daily, hourly, moment by moment, if I but pause to see it.

I don’t know the name of that silly Christmas movie, and I don’t want to know. It was enough to revel in it for a moment, to be still, and to hear a quiet whisper that, inadequate as I feel, I too am, perhaps, enough.

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, or on Twitter @jriddleX.

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