The holidays really fuck with me. This is true for bereaved parents in general. It’s not just that first year without your child that’s ruined, but every year thereafter.
I used to love a fresh-cut Christmas tree. The bigger the better. There’s a hole in the ceiling of the living room, right in front of the picture window, where years of poorly judging the height of the tree have made their mark. And oh, the gifts, best we could afford, and stockings stuffed with treaties – always a Sunkist orange shoved into the toe. This year, the only tree we put up was the sad little Charlie Brown tree I picked up two years ago.
I wasn’t much of a cook in those days, so we always got our Christmas dinner elsewhere, big family gatherings with all the requisite commotion and children underfoot. I used to play nothing but those Very Special Christmas CDs for weeks and one of my best friends would randomly call, sing the words “Five Golden Rings” and then hang up, giggling as he did so because he knew I couldn’t help but finish up those four calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves and that damned partridge in a pear tree before I went back to doing whatever I was doing before he rang me.
These last four years, I’ve cooked a big Christmas dinner. I focus on the details of it for weeks. Two days ago, I pulled out the box of heirloom decorations and decorated the dining room and den. I brought out my grandmother’s delicate Wise Men, Mouse and Ash’s nutcrackers and J’s trio of wooden angels. I lined up this year’s Christmas cards on the bookshelf.
My Mum and Pop, J’s mother and brother joined us. I served dinner on my Mother-In-Law’s gloriously festive china. We gathered in the den after dinner for the new Christmas episode of Dr. Who and then served both apple and pumpkin pie.
By 7:00 tonight, everyone had gone home, the turkey carcass was boiling on the stove and the dishes were whirring their way to cleanliness in the dishwasher. I looked at Jay and Mouse, now happily playing a video game and said to no one in particular, “I’ve half a mind to un-decorate this place immediately.”
Mouse jumped up, went out into the garage, returning with the Christmas box and as quickly as I unpacked them two days ago, I repacked every trace of holiday cheer. I cannot tell you how good it feels to have it gone, how glad I am the the whole thing is behind us.
I wish that I could still love Christmas, but every time I try, all I see are those two little boys in Spiderman Underoos bouncing around in front of the tree, tossing bow-laden wrapping paper into the air. “
“Nobody said it was easy / no one ever said it would be this hard”