Does this picture not make you dream? I swooned when I saw this, collecting graphics to use for Christmasy things. I have a passion for old trucks, and in my child’s imagination, the one that is kind of sad because I didn’t get a tree this year, which was totally foolish, and I will never do that again, I dream that the person driving that truck is bringing that tree to me! I think on Christmas you are allowed to believe anything, dream of anything, have anything and everything you ever wanted, in your mind, like a little child opening up everything under the tree, because really, isn’t it the dream of the thing, opening it up, isn’t that where the excitement really is? Right now, at 10:45 Christmas Eve night I absolutely, completely believe that the person driving that truck is bringing my tree to me, in fact I expect that truck is going to pull up any minute!
He he he, I kind of giggled when I wrote that.
I have been writing to people this evening who were kind enough to leave comments after last night’s post and I have talked with friends on Facebook, and on the phone, and through email that are all feeling so much of the same thing, an aching nostalgia for what was. But the interesting thing is, it has been all different ages of people, even some in their 20’s and 30’s, and it made me realize something. Maybe what we all want was the time when things were simpler, for us, whenever and however that was. Maybe it was in years gone by because in years since we have lost that childlike wonder and in the intervening years dreams have slipped through our fingers, friendships ended, maybe marriages, children have grown up, and as we begin to grow older we see too many dear old family members pass away, and friends begin to with greater frequency the older you get, and you think back to days when it all seemed so much simpler.
There were certainly problems in my family growing up, but the thing is, Christmases were always magical. I grew up in a very large house that was decorated through and through with everything imaginable and it was breath-taking, and for weeks endless dozens of all kinds of Christmas cookies were being baked. Those were the times when you baked so many different kinds of cookies you lost count of how many. I loved coming home from school and sitting in the kitchen helping decorate the cookies with those little silver balls, and sprinkles and my favorite were always the cookies with the icing.
My parents made a very big deal about Christmas and Christmas morning there were so many presents when I got engaged, Christmas Eve 1973 just before we went to midnight mass, my fiancee could not believe what our living room looked like. He had never seen so many wrapped presents waiting for Christmas.
When I look back it is not the numbers of gifts or money spent but the festive nature of things, of people who really celebrated, and on Christmas there were several generations celebrating all together. I look around and don’t see those kind of Christmases for much of anyone anymore because people seem to scatter to the four corners of the earth and getting together gets harder and harder.
And then I remember all of those Christmases when my children were small. Waiting until they went to sleep, my husband and I sneaking about getting gifts out and putting them under the tree, as excited as the kids, barely able to wait for the little ones to get up, and even as they got older we got up Christmas morning, I often got up first and made a fire in the fireplace, and got coffee going, and people drifted in, and the kids got all excited about the wrapped gifts, and soon we were all there laughing and ripping open packages and finally just sitting there with a mug of coffee watching my children delight in their gifts, laughing, whispering, playing together, and then separating off with their own things. We had so many Christmases like that and part of me feels real heartache over those years, now long past.
This year my 2 children who live out of town will be here for Christmas. My eldest, Jenny, arrived today with her sweet husband Andrew and my 20 month old grandson Pierce who is just a dumpling of a baby boy; my sweet son Aaron, my baby, who just turned 30 in June will be here with his wife Stephanie whom we all adore, and my darling Rachel and son in law Jeremy whom I adore and my 9 year old grandson Lucas and I will all be together for Christmas dinner tomorrow evening and we will open gifts and I have some things I am really excited about. We made a pact to all do a simple Christmas and not spend a lot of money and we haven’t — I bought everything on etsy, wonderful little handmade things, and something I am just POPPING to give them. (I shall tell you all tomorrow, sssssshhhhhhh.) It will be a very wonderful Christmas and I am very happy to be with everyone.
But then there is this night, Christmas Eve, any my holidays are very different now, and something I have grown into over the last several years. Mostly, I am alone. I am really okay, and yet there is melancholy, and a twinge, yes, a twinge of sadness. But it passes quickly. This is the life I have chosen, and it suits me well, and most of the days of the year the way that I live makes my life infinitely easier, but just because we have made choices that are for the best for us, there will be times when those very choices that we made will have altered our life in ways we could not have understood when we made them. Would I have my life be any different? No, I would not. I love and appreciate my life, but…
You see my ex-husband is a wonderful man and we have been fortunate to have a very amicable divorce and we still do really care about one another, we see one another at celebrations and holidays, but it is just easier if we do Christmas separately. He and his partner do things very differently with the kids than the kids and I do together and that is fine and works out very well. Because he has a very large house when the kids come in from out of town they stay with him, which makes perfect sense, and Rachel is here with her family and her father in law lives in their large upstairs in a room in the big old house they renovated. I guess the point is that now, on Christmas Eve, everyone is gathered in homes with each other, and though I will see them I do get sad. I’m embarrassed to say that as I write this tears are welling up in my eyes, not because I would have anything be different, it is all exactly as it should be, and we will have wonderful lovely times together, but when you are the only one in the family not partnered and you have chosen the kind of life I have, sitting alone imagining everyone with everyone else makes that little girl that still lives inside of me curl up in a corner with her dolly, big tears rolling down her cheeks. Except that I am a big girl now, and I cuddle a pug instead of a dolly, and really, truly, I am okay.
And so I am here, in this moment, now, and I would like to say something that I think is important. It is okay to feel sadness. It is okay to cry. When I do it is not a deep despairing kind of sadness, it is a soft melancholy for times past. I do not live there anymore, I do not dwell there or cling onto those memories, but just imagine, we had them, and that is so very precious. And I now see my children with their own families and I am so proud of all three of them, I adore their spouses, my little grandsons I cherish beyond measure, and I am richly blessed. Partly I cry from happiness. Partly I cry because I am so very blessed, and I know it. And in a very large way I cry, and sometimes really cry, from a joy and relief that we are all past the years that were hard after the divorce. Amicable or no there are very hard times when a 30 year marriage ends and people are trying to figure out how to juggle things. And for me, the biggest thing at all was for a very long time I was so near a nervous breakdown every holiday season I was just such a mess I know it made it harder on my kids which I hate but it wasn’t intentional and even though we all know that I wish it had not been that way. Now we have worked our way through to such a sweet place, and it all works, and it couldn’t have had we not walked every step of the way together and apart to this very moment.
My darling Jenny called me when they got in. They missed their connecting flight so got in later. Rachel picked them up and took them to her house to eat and rest and then they were on the way to Kevin’s, my ex. Rachel just emailed me right before I started writing this piece to say she loved me and couldn’t wait to see me tomorrow and Merry Christmas Eve. My best friend Jeff who is my heart and soul, more like a brother, called me to check in, and my darling friend Joseph called and we had a long talk. He has come through a very hard battle with cancer and is having a low key peaceful Christmas with his family in Texas. Blessed. I am so deeply blessed, and that makes me cry too. From sheer joy. From the overhwhelming unbelievable knowledge that despite it all, and there has been so very much, as there always is in families, we have come to this place. There is no such thing as a traditional Christmas anymore. Christmas is what you make it, and we all make it the way that works best for us.
So now it is nearly 11:30 and all throughout the land little children are in bed, and parents are tip-toeing around making their preparations as Santa’s Helpers. And those of us who are older are spending the night with someone we love. I think we all are. I have sleeping snoring pugs around me that are like soft, warm teddy bears. When I go to bed tonight I will be cuddling and snuggling with them, kissing soft faces, and smiling as they snuffle and snore in the darkness. I am, in this one precious moment, staring into an angel candle glowing in front of me, sweet, all natural soy candle with a lovely fragrance, surrounded by crystals, looking out onto my deck with twinkling lights, and I am smiling and absolutely filled with awe.
We made it. I’m here grandma, and yes I’m alone, but I’m okay, I promise. And tomorrow I will be with my kids, and my Jeffy is going to bring me food from his Mama’s tomorrow. He always does because my family is mostly vegetarian and she makes an old-fashioned southern Christmas and always makes me a plate. I just cherish that. And the kids will be in and out all week. Jenny said they will pop in with the baby each day to visit until they leave early Saturday morning. And my darling son and his sweet Stephanie will be here with my two “Granddogs,” whom I absolutely adore and they will run about the big back yard and gardens here at the cottage with the pugs and we will visit and they will leave on Sunday. Tonight anything that didn’t get done won’t, but most things did, and tomorrow, yes, I will be wrapping presents during the day, but I will have Christmas music playing, and I will give all of the animals their dinner a little early, and put the t.v on for them, and tuck them in in the Cozy Room, and head over to my daughter’s at 5:30. And in the blink of an eye I will be back here writing to you tomorrow night and it will all be over.
Remember this, years from now this is the time we will look back to with a kind of melancholy, so make these days good ones, the best you can. I certainly intend too. The anticipatory anxiety has passed, the kids are getting in, food is ready, and gifts bought (if not all wrapped), and in half an hour Christmas will be here.
I wish you the wish of sweet Tiny Tim, “God Bless Us Everyone,” and I am truly sending you so much love, from the bottom of my heart.