Well, I was feeling pretty certain that I was ahead of the game and then, lo and behold, the joke’s on me because the garage keys were absolutely nowhere to be found. One emergency trip to the Home Depot plus a pair of bolt cutters later, I’m back where I was meant to be – in the kitchen prepping the gingerbread.

Except, I had to make way for Emet who suddenly needed to cook himself a meal and that’s just how it is sometimes living with a teenager who’s mostly on a schedule unto himself.

The thing is, all season long, I’ve been keenly aware of how this is the last winter I’ll have Emet living under my roof as a full-time resident. I mean, he’ll visit, I have no doubt. But the fact of the matter is that in a little over seven months’ time, he’ll be on to the next step of his journey and I’ll be the mama having watched her first baby bird fly from the nest.

I’m equally as often flooded with excitement as I am with sorrow when I think of what life will be like after he’s landed in a nest of his own. But mostly, I’m grateful to have this time right now with him, still here, kicking me out of my kitchen mid-gingerbread baking to fix some eggs because he can’t wait until dinner and no ready-made snack will address the particular hunger he’s currently experiencing.

In an effort to capture every last bit of poignancy this season had to offer us, I purchased matching family pajamas for the first time ever. Don’t misunderstand me, we have a long tradition of Christmas Eve pajamas. But never the identical garment in our individual sizes. I was compelled to experience this just once and seized my opportunity when I found a print and style that was actually kind of great. So I ordered and eagerly anticipated and then as I was opening the package, I discovered that instead of the pair that was meant for Emet, I was sent something else entirely – a striped linen button-down!

I went straight to the merchant to address the issue and to my chagrin, the pajamas were no longer in stock and I was forced to accept an alternative replacement. Instead of matching with us, he’ll be in a different yet coordinating ensemble.

Eighteen Christmas Eve’s ago, I was pregnant with Emet. Expecting. Tonight, this season, these next seven months, I am filled with a different kind expecting, pregnant not with a baby, but with a brand new adult.

It’s bitter and sweet, exhausting and exhilarating, and I want to capture it all now just as I did then. To fiercely hold him close, and gracefully let him go. One chapter ends as the next is beginning. Only this time, he’s the narrator and I a supporting character in the story he’ll write from his very own perspective. And while he’s certainly no longer a child, he’ll forever be my child.

I was not a mother before Emet came to me, and I was still very much a child when he arrived. As he has gradually grown from infancy to adulthood, so too have I gradually matured into motherhood.

The funny thing about motherhood, I’ve learned, is that the only way to learn to be a mother is through being a mother. Reading about motherhood, thinking about motherhood, dreaming about motherhood, all of this is lovely. But not one bit of it comes anywhere near close to actual motherhood.

Of course, this means the mother I am to Roux is only made possible because of what I’ve learned through mothering his older siblings. My younger children arrived on Earth into the arms of a mother, but Emet was born to a maiden.

Legend has it there was once another baby boy, maiden-born, who’s birth forever changed the world. While I don’t know about all that, I do know that my world has never been the same since the birth of my first baby boy.