I’m doing it again. I’m sitting on the couch with a laptop computer, clicking away on the keyboard to get my mind off the upcoming holidays. So, I’m going to write about them…as if that’s getting my mind off Thanksgiving, Christmas and 2014.
I do this every fall. What’s the old saying? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, only to experience the same disappointing result? Our holidays channel Norman Bates instead of Norman Rockwell. I can’t remember a peaceful, drama-free holiday since…since….hmmm.
The next sentence is going to come out the wrong way no matter how I phrase it. In our family, people get sick and/or die during the holiday season. It’s the time of year that has always brought stress and sadness to those of us still a part of it. In the hours following Halloween, when moods seem to shift from ghoulish to grateful, I experience a grating of nerves. What’s going to happen this time?
I know. I know. I can’t think, act or feel this way. I have to be more positive. More hopeful. Optimistic.
Believe me, I’m trying. Magazines, stacked into towers, inspire feelings of anticipation and excitement. Bronzed turkeys and piles of fluffy mashed potatoes. Christmas trees bursting with strings of cranberries. Champagne flutes filled with golden bubbles. Families exchanging handmade gifts. I want that.
I also want to forget most of 2013. My auntie had been hiding an illness from us, but the act ended on Christmas Eve. Instead of making a fuss over each other’s presents, we were fussing over calling 911. Would she get proper care on the night before Christmas? Should I tuck my girls in bed and sneak to the emergency room, hoping to make it home in time for Santa to deliver their wish lists?
In 2000, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer during the week of Thanksgiving and she died during the week of Christmas. Her mother passed away on December 12th. When I left the mausoleum, I drove to the mall to finish shopping. While I’m no Jackie Kennedy, I remembered that she rushed home to give her young son a proper birthday party after burying the President. Despite our grief, the show must go on.
And I could go on and on. A while back, Mike’s brother suffered a massive heart attack and my dad had another stroke right after the first of the year. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’d like to see March follow September. If we didn’t have children, I would completely ignore the festivities, no matter what the reason for the season.
A few nights ago, Mike and I batted around ideas for the girls’ gifts. They’re getting to an age that’s hard to define with appropriate “toys”. They seem to have everything despite a modest lifestyle, and they ask for nothing. We don’t want to buy stuff just to have something for them to unwrap.
“Can’t we go away this year?” I asked. “Let a trip be everyone’s gift?”
Mike tilted his head from side to side as if to weigh the options. “Where would we go?” he asked.
“I don’t care,” I admitted. “Anywhere but here.”
He winced. “Fighting all that holiday travel…trying to find someone to watch these animals…weather issues…I don’t know.”
Deep down, I wondered if he was secretly worried that we would be inviting more trouble.
“Disney?” I hinted. “Christmas in Florida?”
He curled his upper lip. “With everyone else.”
I fell silent. “What do you want to do then?”
“We can start new traditions,” he offered. “They girls should have Christmas at home. They’ll be gone before we know it. We should be here, together, while we can.”
True. In time, we’ll be coordinating whose house for this and whose house for that. Thanksgiving here, Christmas there, one daughter will be home, one daughter will see us on Easter Sunday.
This will the first Thanksgiving in 40 years that I won’t have anyone from my side of the family at the table. Of course, Mike, Ava and Maryn are my family. But no one from the life that came before them. And Mike is right — this is the year that we have to start over. We need to pack the holidays with so much fun that we’ll drown out the hidden fears. I’ve never seen the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade from start to finish because I’m always cooking a monster-sized meal to serve by noon. The truth is that I hate eating that kind of fare at 12:00. So, guess what? We’re not. In the past, something always forced us to speed up these special days. Strangely, though, I’m getting in the spirit of slowing them down. We’ve never gone to a Chinese buffet on Christmas Eve, and we’ve never saved our gifts for Christmas morning. We’ve also never gone to see a blockbuster movie on December 25th. We’ve never eaten buttered popcorn for Christmas dinner.
But I have to say….it’s starting to sound better and better.