In my daughter’s bed, there are two girls curled together. In the bed we’re giving away when we start renovating the final upstairs room, there are two adults sleeping who this house hasn’t seen overnight in years. In my bed, there’s an extra person who takes her half out of the middle (no matter that she’s smaller than the other two occupants of the bed and that the law of physics would state that she should have, maybe, a third of the bed, not half).

I tiptoed downstairs with the baby, because I couldn’t sleep anymore, despite having gotten to bed at least three hours later than usual. I’m slurping coffee and wondering idly (but not really caring) how the extra caffeine will affect the baby.

Because, you see, our Christmas Guests have arrived. The day long anticipated has arrived, and the visit we’ve been eagerly awaiting has begun. At the airport last night, I got the first installment of hugs, and at Uncle Dee and Aunt Bug’s, I had a chance to try to blind my nieces (and my own kids) with the constant flash of my camera.

This morning, before anyone else is up and before the scramble to get ready for Mass begins, I am savoring the feel in the air, the silent waiting of the house. My old farm house is happiest when we have a houseful. Maybe it’s our happiness and joy captured in the air of the place. Maybe the house’s long memory remembers days of the six R. kids living here, nights of visiting grandkids, evenings of game-playing at the kitchen table. Maybe the house has kept the power of the memories in its worn floorboards; maybe the high ceilings are home to the invisible magic of the past pleasure of people long gone; maybe the brick walls keep the secret of togetherness-joy alive.

It could be that I just like my house more when I hear Susie exclaim about it. It might be that her compliments of what we’ve done with the place stroke my ego and make me look around with new eyes. There must be some logical explanation.

Even so, my house is happy. The kitchen is perched, waiting, with a full coffeepot (well, if someone doesn’t wake up soon it won’t be full for long…) and a cleared-off table for long discussions and shared cups of steaming drinks. The wood stove sits in its corner, usually invisible, but now seeming to glow as it cranks out the warmth that will keep our visitors from the South toasty. The living room, home to so many Christmas mornings of the past, tingles as it waits for the thump-thump-thump of little feet on the stairs first thing in the morning (and throughout the day).

And, like my house, I am happy. I am filled to the brim and almost to the point of tears. My heart overflows and reaches out to grasp every moment together. The time together won’t last long, my mind warns: every visit must end and, once begun, flies by too fast. My goal, therefore, is to fill my arms with hugs and to savor this precious time as the gift it is.

We have received the best gift of all this Christmas: the gift of love, packaged in four people visiting.