Honest Holidays


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”

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4 Responses to Honest Holidays

  1. Abby says:

    This year was the first christmas I have spent away from my the people I love in the 29 I’ve had. in fact this year I had christmas without a single person I’d known before the day itself.

    As I sit knowing, seeing them drinking the traditional cocktails as they unwrap gifts in the morning, eating together, joking, smiling with each other, part of me wonders if deep down they aren’t relieved I’m not there?

    That I *finally* apear to be getting the message.

    Relieved that they can relax and go back to enjoying their christmas as it always was before?

    Nobody said it was easy!

    I hear ya!

    FWIW merry christmas, you’re in my heart (someone needs to be).

  2. Laurustina says:

    Big {{hugs}} to you Abby.

  3. mary teacher says:

    I spend each year wondering what card to send you if any. Then I sadly pick one, knowing that there is no card that will help and there are no words. There is just the absence of her. I will keep looking though each year for your card. Guess its just a little hug from me because you are always on my mind at the holidays.

  4. Margaret says:

    I kinda feel the same way about Christmas and largely have since so much of my family made it clear that I was not to come around “dressed like that” almost 30 years ago. I haven’t put up a tree in years and I still have the same roll of wrapping paper I bought in 1998. *sigh* I hate this time of year. Passionately.

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