Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Second Christmas

The pumpkins, which have all gone squishy, have been tossed into the garden-recycling bin. The cranberry sauce is gone, and the last of the turkey sandwiches, soup, and stir-fry has been eaten. Now, with the first day of Advent, we're easing ourselves into the Christmas season.

Last year, Christmas was a melancholy blur. It probably is for most families when they've lost a family member, particularly in that first year after their passing. For a long time there didn't seem to be any credible reason why plants should bother coming up, or any point to setting goals. Only the mechanics of day-to-day life and the push of responsibilities forced me to keep on any sort of track.

This summer, though, the resident teenager tentatively asked (treading carefully so as not to appear immune to my feelings) if Christmas this year could be a little bit more like it was in the past. And, of course, it will be. It is her time to enjoy the traditions we've relished for half a century and to renew them for us, as well.

Most of those traditions are the ones that take place in our home. The external ones seem to come and go. In some cases, the event itself disappears (for example, the wonderful Ballard North Pole, a beautifully decorated house we visited every year until the creators retired and moved to central Washington; the nerve!).

In others, the event goes on, but I go alone. Although the resident teen was delighted to receive a little paper Advent calendar--cheerfully reliving childhood by opening the door to peek at what was inside--she wasn't particularly psyched to tramp through the rain and go to see the reindeer and the camels visiting the local nursery for the Christmas season. For some strange reason this attraction doesn't have the same pull on a teen as it does on a three-year-old. Nor does strolling through a Merrie Olde Craft Faire or riding on a Santa Train.

OK, I don't go ride on the Santa Train by myself. I do have limits.

Last year the season of lights was dim for us. This year spirits are a bit brighter. We'll pull out the Advent house and hide a treat in each drawer. The tree will go up, bearing ornaments new and old, many with a story to tell. The manger scene, the old toys, the Christmas village will all be in place. Stockings will be hung by the chimney with care.

There will be memories (and though I am grateful for them, they can also skewer me with pangs of despair and bitterness; I think perhaps that only those who can see the Thestrals completely understand that even beautiful memories of missing loved ones are not soft, woolly blankets that muffle all pain).

Despite ourselves, we will all  be laughing; the lights will twinkle, the candles will flicker.

In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night . . . And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. 

--Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "The Little Prince"


  1. My first Christmas without my Mom. So fresh. I catch myself on the verge of tears in the midst of a perfectly happy moment. Six years since Dean, and just last night I sat sobbing watching "Friends," remembering all the countless, timeless moments of completeness that I felt with him. I will always miss him.

    "I think perhaps that only those who can see the Thestrals completely understand that even beautiful memories of missing loved ones are not soft, woolly blankets that muffle all pain."


    1. Penny, all these past months your sharings about your mom sure resonated with me. In so many ways. Partly in regard to my beloved Dad, and partly in regard to now helping out my mom so much. The "firsts" are definitely the worst...after that, I don't know, maybe one just keeps on learning what 'bittersweet' means. Wishing you peace, love, and strength.

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