We have our annual Family Christmas Tea on Saturday - an event also known as "the cookie party" because really, that's what it is. I bake as many kinds of cookies as I can in the weeks leading up to the big day, and we spend the afternoon eating them up and washing them down with wine, eggnog and coffee. With my family and the in-laws, of course. It's not a two-person gorge fest. I swear.
It's a tradition I started in 2005 - the first Christmas without Thomas.
I needed everything to be different that year. I refused to put up red and green lights outside. They were blue and white that year. I refused to have a real, red and green tree inside decked with all of our old, cozy ornaments. We adopted my parents artificial tree, pre-lit with white lights, and covered it in all new white and silver ornaments and balls. I refused to open presents Christmas morning in the living room by the tree. My Beloved and I carried our stockings and presents into the family room and opened them there.
I was simply unable to bear the idea of seeing Thomas missing from the Christmas picture I'd had in my head while I was pregnant. Without him there, I had to change everything.
And I did. With painstaking attention to detail. I changed it all as much as I possibly could.
I have no idea if it really helped or not, but because I believed it would, I did it anyway. I suspect that having red and green lights outside wouldn't have added to my pain or made me miss my baby any more than I already did, but the busyness of changing everything was like an addictive salve. Once I started, I couldn't stop. I felt productive. And healthy. And smart.
I fooled myself good.
The lights outside are red and green again, and now we have two trees every year - the artificial one in the living room with the white and silver finery I bought to mask my sorrow, and a real one in the family room heavy with the weight of our treasured old ornaments and trinkets.
But the cookie party tradition has stuck. I started it because I needed to create a new memory - I needed that first, lonely Christmas without Thomas to be about more than just the first, lonely Christmas without Thomas.
So I slapped on a happy face and baked my heart out.
They came. We ate. And a tradition that I now find cozy and sweet was born.
Today, in between the chocolate marshmallow meltaways and the magic cookie bars, I paused for a moment and admitted to myself that even though the motivation for having the event isn't fully therapeutic any longer, it is still a salve on an unhealed wound.
I know part of the reason why I'm still doing this four Christmases later is because it keeps me busy and gives me purpose during this season that is sometimes so hard on my heart.
Christmas is for children, I hear over and over and over again. But for people like us, it's also about survival. And making the most of a difficult situation. And finding sweet moments wherever you can.
Even when you have to bake them one by one.