Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy enough

Is this really the most wonderful time of the year?

In some ways, yes.

Two of my favourite food groups, chocolate and gravy, feature prominently during the Christmas season. Some of the most gorgeous sacred music ever written finds its way onto radio station playlists and my DVD player in November and December - along with Bing Crosby with his soothing brand of seasonal crooning.

And speaking of Bing, the coziest old movies and the best animated specials can be found on television stations 24/7 as the clock ticks down to Christmas day. And those you can't find on TV are almost always available on DVD to watch over and over again.

And cards - sparkly, lovely, mushy, happy cards - find their way into my mailbox almost every day, giving bills and junk mail a run for their money.

Christmas is a greeting card whore's dream come true.

And there really is a gentleness about the season. People, when they're not shopping or trying to find a parking spot, just seem nicer somehow.

So yes, it's a lovely time of year. And I love it.

But I think it's important not to over-glorify Christmas. Not because the other holidays will get jealous, but because it puts entirely too much pressure on everyone to actually feel as happy as we might be pretending to look; as happy as the songs and stories and televisions specials tell us we should be.

Sometimes happy isn't always there. But because Mariah Carey is shrieking at me about a silent night over the sound system at the mall, I feel like the world expects me to be happy, calm, and bright. Right now, dammit.

Like I used to be, back when I didn't know that babies died and fathers got sick.

It's not realistic to be happy all the time. And it's even less realistic at Christmas, where there's additional pressure to be the Norman Rockwellian picture of festive bliss - no matter what's going on in the rest of your life, it seems.

Divorced people, sick people, abused people, grieving people, depressed people, lonely people - they're feeling additional pressure to be festive and happy when circumstances in their lives make just regular old happy difficult some days. Maybe most days.

Spring is a wonderful time of year. Buds, blooms, balmy weather and an end to snow boots and winter tires makes it a perfectly lovely season. Summer, although I despise the heat, is nice simply because there's no chance of snow and a good chance of a cottage vacation. Fall - also known as pie season around here - is a delight, with crisp air, cozy sweaters, changing leaves and Thanksgiving.

All the seasons are nice.

It's just good to remember that when the joy of Christmas seems a little hard to find. Or when you think the amount of joy you have isn't enough.

One of my sweetest Christmas memories is sitting alone in bed, sick as a dog, eating canned chicken noodle soup and listening to Boris Karloff tell me how the Grinch stole Christmas, on CD.

By all accounts, it was a miserable Christmas. I was too sick to stay and have dinner with my family, so I went home after opening presents and crawled into bed with some soup. It was the very first Christmas My Beloved and I were together, and he'd given me the CD on Christmas Eve.

I was sad - I'd made my mother cry when I told her I had to leave - and in addition to being devastated that I was missing Christmas dinner for the first time ever, I felt like death warmed over. But I also felt loved as I listened to the CD and ate my soup. And by the time my sister got home with a turkey sandwich and some leftover pie, I was feeling marginally better. And even more loved.

Even a little joy is more than enough, especially during times when experiencing just a little smidgen of merry is a hard-fought victory.

It's important to remember that. It makes even the smallest amount of Christmas happy, happy enough.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The days leading up to Christmas...

...look a little something like this at my house:

When the family cookie party detritus is all cleaned up and put away for another year, the dining room table is re-purposed, becoming the official home of the Christmas train. Once they're wrapped, I pile all the presents that are heading out of the house into the middle of the train, creating present mountain around which it chugs.

As Dibley watches.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Christmas is NOT just for kids (dammit!!). It's also for adults who love to revel in the simple joys of the season. And for cats who live for the excitement of watching things that go around and around and around in circles.

Christmas is for everyone who wants a little piece of it.

And I do.

Monday, December 06, 2010

This, that 'n the other

On Saturday we had our 6th annual Family Christmas Tea, a tradition I started that first Christmas without Thomas when I was desperate to make new memories in place of the ones I'd imagined we'd be creating (with a 9-month old boy dressed in the santa suit his Grandma had knitted for him).

I've been baking and prepping for the last three weeks, and at 2:00pm on Saturday afternoon the plastic wrap came off the trays of goodies, and I scooped the whipped cream for the diabetic gingerbread cake into the candy cane bowl as my family walked in the front door.

The best moment of the day was when my dad, snuggled into the comfiest chair in the family room by the fire, smiled and said, "This is exactly where I wanted to be today."

The second best moment of the day was when my nephew, giggling and sticky with candy cane face, played charades with me in the kitchen.

It is possible, as it turns out, for your heart to both melt and break all at the same time.
A few weeks ago my sister handed me a little round paper ornament. It was a copy of one that was going to be hung on the Christmas tree at the hospital where Thomas was born, in his memory.

By coincidence (one that has made my dad's health issues all the more emotionally complicated for me), it's the same hospital where my dad spent three months this winter/spring, and where he now receives dialysis three times a week.

On my way out of the dialysis waiting room on Friday, I spied the massive Chirstmas tree in the hospital's atrium covered in hundreds and hundreds of the little round paper ornaments purchased by family and friends in memory and honour.

I remembered the ornament that's now stuck on our fridge, and thought I might try to find its mate on the tree.

The tree has to be upwards of 20 feet tall and easily six feet wide. There are, as I said, hundreds of paper ornaments covering it from top to bottom.

And I found Thomas' almost instantly, about seven feet up and facing directly into the renal unit.

So I know he's watching over his Grandpa, at Christmas and always. Just like I asked him to.
And speaking of Christmas, I got an early present the other day when I opened up my e-mail and found I'd been given a really sweet blog award by Lady Pumpkin! This is my very first one, and I have to say I was chuffed. I really was.

As per the instructions, I'm now passing the Cherry On Top award to the following five wonderful women who always manage to say something that makes me smile, cry, nod or laugh - sometimes all in the same post:

Mrs. Spit
Pamela at Silent Sorority
Justine at A Half Baked Life

Here are the rules: Link back to the person who awarded you, and then pick five blogs to pass the award along to. Make sure to comment on the awarded blogs so they know they’ve been picked.

Thank you again, Lady Pumpkin! I'm glad you think I'm deserving of a cherry on top!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Don't forget...

Lately I've been carefully reminding myself to prepare for the emotional onslaught of Christmas Eve, which seems to catch me off guard every year.

The first one without Thomas I spent cleaning - manically cleaning - and sobbing. It has not gotten much better. But that's because I kept forgetting how shittastic Christmas Eve is, for some reason. It's fresh agony each year thanks to my surprising inability to retain useful information like: CHRISTMAS EVE SUCKED LAST YEAR BECAUSE I WAS VERY, VERY SAD.

As the years have passed there's been noticeably less frenzied cleaning activity on Christmas Eve (of course that would be the first thing to go...), but there's still a debilitating amount of very raw sorrow in my heart on the 24th.

It's such a little kid day - my most favourite day of the year when I was small. So much magic in the air. So much promise. So much to look forward to.

And now, of course, there's markedly less magic and promise in my life. And the sorts of things I look forward to are having a schooner of wine when I get home from taking my dad to the hospital, or knowing there's a chocolate bar My Beloved has stashed away in the freezer for me.

See? Wine and chocolate. And I was going to mention something about fleece sheets, but that's just too obvious.

So I've been reminding myself that Christmas Eve is coming, pain and all, because I think maybe if it doesn't sneak up on me, it might not be as bad as usual.

Plus this year I'll be spending some of it in dialysis with my dad - which isn't necessarily merrier, but, well, different. And different is good, I find. Even when the different is actually bad, different.

I don't know for sure if being prepared will help at all - but at least I'm doing something beside waiting to wake up on Christmas Eve to a crushing sadness I'd forgotten would come.