Christmas is starting to change for me and I think it’s a good thing so please do not feel sad for me. Years ago, it was a time of great celebration for me, I loved everything about the season right down to the crowds. The feeling that I felt inside was indescribable joy and happiness. I didn’t have a lot of money, small gifts and cards were what I could afford but every bit of it, I shared with my mother.
Through the years her illness had taken a toll so she would get tired easily and each year she would hold back a little on how much she participated. But the love she had for the season and for her family never lessened any by any means. When we were little we would all sit on the cold floor while she read the Christmas stories from Family Circle and Woman’s Day magazine. I remember one particular year when she read a story from the newspaper about a family that all they had was macaroni and cheese for the Christmas dinner. We didn’t have much ourselves but she always reminded us of just how lucky we were to have each other. Our love was and is the gift of Christmas.
My love for the holidays came directly from her and how much she showed us to love with nothing to give. Oh, we would get presents, I don’t know how she did it, they weren’t fancy gifts and not a lot like kids get today. But they were nothing without an orange from the tree in the backyard to hold down the base of our sock stockings. Coloring books she intended to put in our stockings were normally given to us the night before to help quiet us down and I’m sure to take away from her anxiety of the next day coming.
And when the next day came, it was magical to us all. Coming out before dawn because the youngest would wake up and then we’d all follow along. Mom would come out and sometimes we would start to unwrap while other times she made us wait until breakfast was made. Normally bacon and eggs with drop biscuits or buttered toast, for seven children this took a little while. But the memory that I have every time I smell bacon now was a gift she gave to me without even knowing.
After we opened the gifts and went to play with our new toys, no one seemed to notice how she would go straight to work in the kitchen to make sure that Christmas dinner would be done on time. As I grew older, I realized how hard she worked to make it perfect for us and it made it all the more special.
I remember the last gift that I gave to her on Christmas, a simple gold chain with a gold cross. She cried when she opened it and said she didn’t know how I knew she wanted one. We had become close through the years and watching her illness take its toll, showed me how her faith was stronger than we knew. She was raised Catholic but raised us children at first as Baptist at the wishes of my father. But when he passed and she had to start over, the church tended to forget us when we didn’t show up for the offering plate.
I could hear what she thought were silent prayers as she faced things that are unimaginable to the regular healthy person. She cried when no one was looking and sometimes we even cried together while sitting next to each other. She was my rock but somehow she thought the same of me and that was an amazing gift that she gave to me. I went through my struggles physically and she was there for me, just as I tried my best to be there for her. Yet finally her illness was more than she was strong enough for. She held her Catholic beliefs tight and I felt as though I let her down when I couldn’t recite The Lords Prayer with her when she asked.
Yet in her ever giving love, she didn’t hold it against me. We talked about angels and I remember asking her while beside her bed in the hospital if she believed in Heaven and Angels. I remember her answer for Angels, she felt that someone had come to take my father away because he was talking to someone before he passed and it wasn’t directed at her. So she said that she knew Angels exist when it comes to Heaven, my mind has robbed me from remembering her answer and to this day it haunts me.
It wasn’t much later, Christmas, that she had the experience of speaking with someone who to anyone else, was not in the room. It was beautiful and terrifying all in the same instance. I wouldn’t realize the beauty of it for some time as that night was the night that would take my world away and Christmas would never be the same.
Although my past memories were wonderful and loving, they now seemed overcast with her not here with me. I felt alone and robbed of happiness. Yet I learned from the best that Christmas has to be for the children so I remember still putting up a tree that year, still buying presents and cooking a meal, actually three meals that year as of course with siblings…one wasn’t talking to the other so even though I needed them so badly, I couldn’t get past their feelings. So I kept myself busy and my feelings even deeper by making three-holiday dinners that year.
Every Christmas since then has seemed to place a feeling of dread in my heart. I don’t want it to come around because of the new memories that are in it. Yet in the back of my head, there was always the yearning to feel the way I used to. I wanted the joy and excitement back that made it such a great time of year. Hope would be my Christmas wish but it never seemed to be strong enough I guess. So even though I would put on a smile and do what I needed to do, my heart was so heavy a weight that it just didn’t feel real.
Now with more years passing us by, my granddaughter is 5 years old and we are in the process of selling the family home. With this being an actual possibility, I’ve gone through more emotions that seem to resemble mourning. It’s time to let go and I’m praying that it will help to leave some of the pain behind that I am reminded of every time I walk the floors of this house.
This Christmas seems to be trying to take back some of its happiness and it’s hard to explain. I catch myself feeling magic in my chest that I haven’t felt in a long time, like sparkles but of energy. The minute I realize it’s there, it tends to go away but at least I know it was there, it made it through. Is Christmas actually going to change for me? Can I allow myself to feel like it used to feel? Does this mean letting go and is that what’s been holding me back this entire time? I don’t know how to let go, at least on my own.
But I do have hope.