Sunday, December 5, 2010

Where Are You Christmas?

silver pop treeMy world is changing
I'm rearranging
Does that mean Christmas changes too?

Every year, I seem to struggle more.  Christmas was my favorite holiday as a child and as an adult.  When I had children, I wanted to make it amazingly special for them.  It had to be beautiful and special, not with toys or things, but with memories and activities and stories and family.

In 2001, my husband died and it became more difficult to muster the energy to decorate.  Things were not the same.  Someone was missing and we all knew it.  It was weird.  The effort to “make things the same” was wasted because we knew it would never be the same.  Then I tried to make things totally different.  That didn’t work either and ended in tears.  We couldn’t “fix it”.

We did try to get rid of the material items that meant nothing and tried to make memories.  We replaced the material things with trips each year – a cruise, Disney World, New York, a cabin in the Smoky Mountains.  That was a good decision.  We have great memories of those times.

The kids got older and got jobs and significant others in their lives.  It was hard to coordinate time off and for them to miss work for a trip during the holiday.  It became a dance of schedules and often left us a two hour window to open presents and eat before one had to go to work and the other had to attend the significant other’s family dinner and present opening.

But we still had family with us.  Either we headed to Alabama to visit my husband’s family or to Middle Tennessee to visit my family.  My siblings are spread across the country so it didn’t happen every year but there were a few occasions over the years that we were all at my parent’s house at the same time.  Then my mom passed away.  Again, it was different.  Someone was missing and there was no getting around it
We tried to make it the same.  Then we tried to make it different, holding Christmas at my house for Dad and my sister’s family from Louisiana.  Then everyone else’s kids got older again and it became more difficult to get everyone in one place at the same time both in Alabama and for my family.  Last year Dad couldn’t make it to my house but my sister’s family did.  This year, I think it’s going to be almost impossible to get any of us together.  My daughter is living in Atlanta working two jobs and my son works almost every holiday.  At least they will be home for most of Christmas Day.

Hence my lack of Christmas Spirit.  I am really not whining or feeling sorry for myself.  I have a very close extended family and I realize every family goes through this.  It’s my turn.  I love tradition and family and stories and memories and food and games and will miss the loud discussions, the large personalities, the quiet moments, the sharing of love and family.  But we will make all that happen again in a new way, maybe at Christmas, maybe at New Year’s, or maybe even in the summer months.

My son has his tree up downstairs and it’s different and beautiful – totally him.  My daughter has a cute tree in her apartment in Atlanta that expresses her personality and colorful sense of design.  Do I have to put up a tree?  I think I do.  I could sit here all day and wait for the holiday spirit to come and anoint me with the magic of Christmas.  I might be sitting a long time.  I think it will happen once I start the decorating, starting with the tree.

And yes, I will complain that I have to drag out all that stuff, find a place to store the “stuff” that is a part of the décor all year, and then clean up everything.  And I will whine that all that has to be done again in reverse in a few weeks.  But I will do it.

Christmas changes and I need to change my expectations.  I’m working on it.
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Joy Page Manuel said...

This entry could not have come at a more appropriate time for me. Just last Friday, I found out that I've lost the baby in my womb. There was no heartbeat and he/she has stopped growing. I was supposed to have been 9wks pregnant already. Though I already have one son, a dream was still shattered. I was even thinking by the time Christmas day comes, I would have reached 12wks already and thought that would've been the most perfect Christmas gift. All that is no more and I can't seem to find any joy anymore in anything. I just keep putting one foot ahead of the other, trying to survive the mundane just cos I HAVE TO. It's hard. I'm not even sure a Christmas tree will do it for me, but I will try. We are purchasing one today and I know more than anything, I'm just doing it for my son, just to keep the tradition going, though my heart continues to ache in all its brokenness.

Laura B said...

Tere, as always, your writing moves me and causes me to think. I was listening to this song just last night on the way home from my family's Christmas; the lyrics begin so sad, but end with a note of hope, which perfectly describes what you're going through. In my family, we have made the same journey from having Christmas with everyone there every year to never having everyone in the same place at the same time. But my Mom is very practical and just plans a date that's good for her and says "y'all come if you can and don't fret if you can't!" But we've always had fairly nontraditional celebrations due to my ex-brother-in-law's work schedule (one year, we celebrated in early February!) so we're used to it. We quit exchanging gifts the year my Dad died -- it just seemed like the right time, since the kids were all grown by then and gift-giving had become a chore rather than a joy. Now it's a time of reminiscing and sharing and laughter rather than a hectic time of ripping open packages and worrying that someone spent more than you did. Your practice of taking a trip together sounds like you've discovered the same things we have.
(On a side note, I had never heard of an upside-down tree until this year; a designer did one on an HGTV show we watched. From what I've heard about Zack, it sounds well-suited to his creative personality! Post pictures if you can.)
Best wishes to you and I hope you have a very merry Christmas....really.

Tere said...

Joy - my heart is breaking for you. I know that no one can make it better but I am holding you in my thoughts. And you are right, you probably are doing the tree thing just for your son. I've been there and I know that sometimes, that's just what you need to get through it. I wish you peace during this time.

Tere said...

Laura - I know what you mean about the gifts. It really had become a chore rather than a joy. We stopped doing gifts last year at my in-laws (except for the small kids) and it was so much better. I have talked with my Dad and suggested doing that this year. He was all for it. This season has been so much more relaxed so far.

Laura B said...

Joy, I don't know you, but my prayers are with you. I cannot imagine experiencing what you are going through, so I won't try to offer any words of "wisdom" because I fear they would be woefully inadequate. But God bless you and give you peace this holiday season.