Except it doesn’t feel like Christmas. At all. And it’s not for lack of trying, let me assure you. Our halls are decked, our stockings are hung, and we trimmed the heck out of our tree last night.
I used to be that completely over-the-top Christmas person, thanks in no small part to my mother and her infectious Christmas spirit. In high school, I would wear my red and white striped knee high socks with my uniform, wrap garland around my bun, and if my nails weren’t airbrushed with Christmas trees, then they were at least painted alternating red and green. With sparkles. My room was decorated with a miniature tree, garland was wrapped around my banister, and carols blasted from my stereo as soon as they started playing on the radio stations.
It wasn’t really the presents that made me excited (although they certainly didn’t hurt either), but it was the overall feeling of Christmas and the holiday season that got me going. The pretty sparkling lights, the happy music, the build-up to a day of food and fun with the family. What’s not to like?
Then my mom died.
I didn’t put up a tree that year or decorate at all. Hubby went to the store and bought pretty much the entire Christmas department at Target to try and cheer me up, but I made him put it all away because I couldn’t bear to look at it. We had Christmas morning at my dad’s like normal, except that we kept having to take breaks to bawl our eyes out or blow our noses.
My mom used to start preparing for Christmas months in advance. So when she died in mid-November, she had already bought several of our presents. The rest were delivered over the next few weeks, which was incredibly disconcerting to us to be receiving packages from her after she was gone. We put the unopened parcels in the dining room and finally opened them on Christmas morning. There was a package of tea for me, an Ireland shot glass for we’re-not-sure-who, and a charm bracelet full of Irish symbols for me. It was both traumatizing and comforting to be able to open presents from her even though she wasn’t there. We thought that was the end of it.
The following year, a package was delivered to the house addressed to her. It was two Irish ornaments: one for her and one for me, that she had bought in advance. We got two more last year. Also last year, my dad gave me a bunch of her Lenox decorations, one of which was a gingerbread house that we had never seen before. I opened it up and it’s personalized with my and hubby’s names on it. It was a gift she never got to give us. I imagine she was waiting until we bought a house, so it was fitting that we discovered it on our first Christmas in our house.
I don’t want to become the Grinch. I am desperately clinging onto whatever little Christmas spirit I can muster, for myself and for her. I know she would be devastated to see me so sad and struggling to find joy.
This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for days, and I just read a post over at Robin’s Chicks that completely sums up what I am feeling in much better words than I could formulate. It made me realize that I’m not alone in my feelings and that it’s not just the motherless (fatherless, sisterless, etc.) that struggle through the holidays.