I love Christmas. Always have...
I can be flying high on the excitement and anticipation of the holidays, pulling out the Christmas décor and dancing to Christmas carols on one day, then the next day, I can be caught off guard and find the tears welling, threatening to fall as an unbidden memory comes floating to the surface.
Memories of my brother and I sneaking into the off-limits living room and laying under the Christmas tree, looking up through the branches and talking about our hopes and dreams; of all us kids (five in total) racing our Crazy Carpets down our long, steep driveway; of opening gifts upstairs, then heading to the downstairs suite to have breakfast and a second Christmas with nanny and popa.
The smell of waffles and sausages lingering long after the dishes were done as neighbourhood children gathered to show off new bounty and adults got lost in conversation over liquored coffees. Ah, the good old days of innocent youth and childhood dreams.
Then came the later years. The years where Christmas wasn’t so good. First, my infant daughter passed on Dec. 22, 1985. She was buried on Boxing Day. Officially the worst Christmas of my life. It was also my first visit from Spirit, but that’s a different story for a different time.
My sister died on Boxing Day, 2000. She was two years older than me, just 38 years old. My father died in August, but his birthday is Dec. 14th. While his health wasn’t all that great, it still came sudden and unexpected. My mother died on Jan. 2, 2015. I spent that Christmas sitting holding my mom’s frail, skeletal hand as we tried to mend our broken history. So, understandably, I have struggled with the holidays, and December in general.
But, then I had children come along. Glenn in 2001 (Dec. 29th). Alec in 2009. Our youngest was born in 2010 (Dec. 8th) and came to us in 2014. It became important to me that, over Christmas, the sorrow I carried in my heart would not touch the celebration in the hearts of my children. At first, it was a struggle. A mask I wore so others wouldn’t see or feel the pain I carried deep within. But, over the years, things began to shift as I learned to face and embrace that sorrow and pain. Learned how to allow myself to feel it, without becoming overwhelmed by it. I learned to walk with the pain, without it taking my feet out from under me. And as I came to terms with my pain, the joy began to find it’s way back in.
Before too long, I no longer found myself cutting my laughter short, guilty for feeling any joy. I no longer woke up with a lump in my throat, going through the day as a shell. I no longer tried to escape the bright lights and the shiny tinsel, the cheery music, and the joy. Instead, I learned to embrace it all. To allow for the sorrow to rise, as it’s bound to, and welcome it as testament to the love I have been blessed to experience. To let my children see my struggle, and know that it’s okay to not be okay.
Today, as I write this, the Christmas carols are playing on the stereo. The tree is up and decorated and I look forward to building gingerbread houses with my boys. I have created an altar in my reading room to honour those that live on in memory only. It holds photos and candles and feathers and a few personal mementos that are special to me. The memories and tears may come, but they will also bring smiles and laughter.
Yes, Christmas, you fickle bitch. I do love you.