In the chaos of “Silent Nights” that aren’t, finding joy

Categorized as Grounds for Insanity column, Rhonda's Posts

“Boy, this place can go from 0 to 60 in 5. Seconds, that is, which is as long as it takes for the bottom three to hop out of bed and blitz down the stairs. Good thing we’ve got shovels. Good thing there’s snow to use ’em on. Good thing there’s a lock on the door.”

That’s what I told a few of my closest friends on Facebook. I was kidding (sort of), but I wasn’t lying (not at all). Why, just the other day, I heard the sounds of a lively chase wafting up the stairs with the pounding of feet, shouting and riotous laughter from the smallest runner. I could tell by the slamming of the doors where in the house they were at. (“Do You Hear What I Hear,” Mr. Schrock in your office?)

As a friend pointed out when she heard of their antics, “What Child Is This?” was never a question when her own three, two sons and a husband, were on the run.

I know what she means. Mothers don’t ask “which child” or “what happened” because we know which one and what’s up. When it’s the dad, we know that, too, and that’s when things get dicey.

I can’t count how many times I’ve said to the boys’ father, “I don’t know who to spank first, you or them.” This as I peer meaningfully at the other erstwhile responsible adult in the house. Who has the grace to look sheepish, then grins like a schoolboy caught shooting spitballs.

It’s here that my size works against me. At not quite 5 feet, I’m at a clear disadvantage when it comes to balancing the scales of justice. In the David and Goliath plot line, let’s just say I’m not the giant, and I’ve got no slingshot.

The former publisher here noticed it, too. The first time I ever met him in person, he looked at me in surprise. “You’re not at all what I expected,” he said. “With four boys, I thought you’d be…”

Here, words failed, and he pantomimed what could only be described as—well, a stouter physique. “But,” he added respectfully, “I guess you can keep order.”

I laughed. “Sir,” I said, looking him in the eye, “I can keep order.”

Yes, I can keep order, and I can cling to the dream. “Silent night,” we sang hopefully at season’s peak.

Silent night, huh? Well, not here, and not at the larger Schrock party, either. Not with 12 adults, packed tight, and 18 kids here, there and everywhere with a few up in the rafters. Outdoors, boys were blowing up pumpkins beneath the starry sky with guffaws and high fives as orange chunks rained down.

Silent night? A girl can hope. And keep right on hoping, too, when “Deck the Halls” becomes “He Trashed the Halls.” (“He” being College Kid, “halls” being every room and walkway and “trashed” meaning his stuff is everywhere ’cause he’s home from school.) The washer won’t stop running, a clothing factory’s exploded here and the baby of the family is missing, presumably under a pile somewhere.

Wait. No. He’s scaled the bookcase again to check out his stocking.

Anyway, perhaps I feel like nothing quite so much as one of the shepherds who watched their flock by night. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s how it seems, so baa.

For Mr. Schrock, it’s not as much “watching the flock” as “trying to get the flock to shut that thing down (the X-Box) and go to bed while it is yet night.”

Up above, there are still thumps and bumps. We take turns groaning, flopping over and thumping our pillows into new and different shapes. Those are no angels we have heard on high, see, and we’re acutely aware of this at 2 in the morning.

When Mr. Schrock in silent desperation dons his slippers, I know it’s over. Wordless, he trudges down into the darkness and finds the breaker box. With one little switch, there’s blessed quietness, holy quietness. Angels, I think, are singing somewhere, though there’s no rejoicing or happy refrains from the three “Good Christian Men” overhead. There is, however, the smallest chord of joy in my own exhausted frame.

In all the melee, the mess and the uproar, I find that there is, yes, joy. In my world. For as I confessed recently, “There’s a lot that a mother doesn’t get right. Then the house smells like cinnamon rolls baking in the oven; The Guppy’s standing on a chair beside you drying dishes while the Christmas music plays; and you think, ‘Maybe just once in awhile…’”

Perfection? No. Joy? Yes. Peace, too, and hope. Not because a guy in a red suit came to town, but because The Babe did once, far away in a manger. Who really does see us when we are sleeping and knows when we’re awake. And that’s some very good news.

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