I’m not particularly fond of Christmas. It’s safe to say, most years I’m a total humbug, and in all likelihood, I’ve also trashed the holiday for my husband, Lyle, and son, Russell. I’m not proud of the fact, but here’s the deal:
Twenty years ago, Christmas started out well enough. While never particularly religious, our family of three (with two more on the way) tromped through the snow, cut down a tree, dragged it through the house and set to make the holiday bright.
Russell’s favorite ornament was a Hallmark Friendship 7 spaceship. His pudgy, five-year-old fingers pushed the red button on top of the decoration, and a little light exposed a tiny John Glenn inside who said, “Roger… Zero G and I feel fine… Capsule is turning around… Oh, that view is tremendous!”
Because almost every conversation in the winter of 1999 began with, “Boy, next year will be different when the twins are here,” we decided to try a dry run of future Christmases by putting the Christmas tree in the downstairs family room—away from curious, crawling twins who were presently swirling safely—or so we thought—inside my growing belly.
How were we to know, three weeks after Christmas, instead of packing away Christmas decorations and putting New Year’s resolutions into action, we would be planning a memorial service for twins born way too soon.
Friends would show up at our door with casseroles and condolences, and those who knew first-hand how death blows up your world also brought bags of groceries so I could stay tucked safely in my house, far away from the concrete, highway overpasses calling my name. Nothing—including Christmas—would ever be the same, but I held tight to the people in my life who gave me the space to just be.
I would like to say time took care of the jagged wounds, but frankly, I would be fine if Thanksgiving simply morphed to Valentines’ Day. Over the years, I learned to focus on different things in December—a festive dinner with friends, serving a meal at a soup kitchen, or shopping for someone less fortunate.
I suppose time, lots of time, indeed helps (please, never say that to the newly grieving). I also discovered the best way to enjoy the holidays was not to practice for what might never be. Instead, I ground myself in the present and enjoy what is—good friends and a lot of wine.
This holiday has arrived without much fanfare, and if you walked into my house, you would barely see any evidence of impending celebrations. I fully realize I’m not alone here. It’s not all tinsel and lights for a lot of people out there, and I’m hopeful my kindred humbugs can, like me, find a safe place with friends to simply be.
In the past couple weeks, I’ve gathered with old friends and new. Fortunately, I realized through the long years of grieving that I’m blessed to have so many good people in my life; however, it occurs to me that many of the people who have shared part of their holiday this year with me may have no clue how much their kinship means to me at this time of year. Some have intimate knowledge of the profound loss I experienced, but very few realize how many times I say Nolan and Simone’s names around the holidays as if to make them more real if just for a moment.
Who knows what I will find next year at Christmas, but I hold no need to rehearse for what may or may not arrive. Today, I’m grateful for the peace and joy of my holiday and for now the view is tremendous.