Here we are again at the Christmas season, a place that despite the many warnings and commercials and stores setting up for it around Easter, always seems to sneak up on me. I’m terrible at preparing for it, horrible at decorating for it. A few years ago, we put our tree up on Christmas Eve and then I took it down the day after Christmas.
I’m not the only person who struggles at Christmas. There are plenty. And there are many who struggle with issues far worse than my own. I never forget that – and I do appreciate what I have.
I don’t want to hate Christmas. I never wanted to hate it. I try to put my game face on and enjoy the time spent with my family, the cheery songs, watching my cats find a peaceful moment together as they sleep under the twinkling lights. But in my heart, it’s the depths of winter when the holidays roll around.
I had seven Christmases that were great – and I can remember none of them, really. My eighth Christmas came six months after losing my brother suddenly. He was 5, I was 8. We had our little family of my parents, my sister, brother and me – and then we didn’t. There was a piece missing in our house, under our tree, and in our hearts.
And you don’t get that back.
I don’t remember what that first Christmas was like without him. I remember what they felt like after that – empty. My family, my normal, fractured irreparably.
There is so much in my life to be thankful for – so much that I have that others do not. And for all of that, I am truly grateful. I spent a lot of years focusing on what I didn’t instead of what I do. I’ve spent most of this year retraining my head and my heart to be more thankful, be more positive, be a better me.
I’ve done my best to make Christmas wonderful for my son since he was born. But I did it all half-heartedly. It was appearance only. I wanted him, in his innocence, to love the magic of the holiday. Family and love and presents and joy. But for me, it was all façade.
I don’t want to hate it anymore.
I had convinced myself that my son wouldn’t see this Christmas – if for no other reason than my brother, who my son is named for – didn’t get to have one at age six. It was a completely irrational fear – but an all-encompassing one. I’d been terrified that he wouldn’t live past five and a half. And when he did, I had a huge sigh of relief.
That this year has been one of so much change for me has made me want to try to change how I feel about the holidays. Not just for my son – but for me, too. I don’t want to dread a season that for so many heralds joy.
This morning, Aaron brought me a project Michael had done yesterday. It was Santa’s head drawn on a piece of paper that Michael had colored in and below it, he had written a note. “Dear Santa, ples cum to my hous on Christmas Eve.”
I lost it. I just started to cry while I was trying to get ready for work. And I couldn’t stop crying. I’m crying again now thinking about it.
That little boy has his innocence and believes in the magic of Christmas. Maybe mostly for presents, because he IS six after all, but he’s all in on Christmas. He gets excited about snow, about wearing his gloves and his snow boots and putting up the tree and watching holiday movies. He has this exuberance for the holiday that I don’t remember ever having.
My brother died almost 30 years ago. I’ve spent so many years holding on to unhappiness and not allowing myself to feel anything good about it. He didn’t do this to me – I did. So now it’s time to be done doing this to myself. He wouldn’t have wanted this for me, and I don’t want it anymore, either.
So this year, I make it better. I take baby steps to enjoying instead of dreading. We make new traditions for our little family. And maybe next year, I’ll be better equipped and prepared.
We start tonight with taking a ride with the boy to look at the Christmas lights that people put up outside, armed with hot chocolate in the car. Maybe we'll even listen to some Christmas songs. Maybe we'll listen to Volbeat. Who knows? The point is that we're doing this as a family, making traditions, and approaching the holiday in a new way with open minds and open hearts. I owe it to my brother, my son, my husband....and I owe it to myself to retrain myself.