Monday, 29 December 2008
I'll have a blue Christmas...
Christmas can be a strange and beautiful time. On one hand, feelings of love and warmth and goodwill flood the heart. It's a time for generosity, family, food, drink and laughter. But there's always that brief but poignant stab of longing for people who are no longer present, for old times and old traditions no longer practised.
I have been missing Rose and Nana quite a bit; the first Christmas "under the sod" is always the hardest. It's hard to watch my husband's neice enjoy her first Christmas without wanting to stand up and shout, "Rose should be here too!" She'd be eight months old. I stood in front of our tree yesterday and I swear I could see her, reaching for the ornaments, crinkling tissue paper in her tiny fists, grinning over her first present. We probably would have stuffed her in some ridiculous Christmas outfit like most parents are wont to do and taken pictures. There are still times when this house feels miserably empty without her.
I always think of my mother at this time of year as well - the queen of all things Christmas. Her supper table was a masterpiece of red and gold and white each year, heaped with delicacies like her cream-cheese-dilled-mashed potatoes and mashed turnip so delicious I would eat it cold the next day for breakfast. I tried to honour her memory a little bit by decorating the dining table lavishly and making crepes on Christmas morning for D and his family. Mom always did like to make a splash on the 25th.
And no Christmas thoughts are complete without dear old Nana. I'm thankful we spent at least one last Christmas together last year before she died. Her birthday is Dec 24th and this year I coaxed D to get Chinese take out, as Nana used to like doing that around the holidays. My shopping list felt strangely short - for the first time since I was little, I wasn't racking my brains trying to think of the perfect gifts for a 96 year old lady who had everything. And boy, did I miss it.
My beloved sisters (and nephew) are spending the holidays together in Australia this year and I miss them too - even when they call long distance in 35 degree weather to inform me they're heading to a resort for an afternoon of cocktails by the pool. Humph! (I hope the mosquitoes got you - hee hee)
Snuggling with D on the couch on Christmas afternoon, watching some old home movies of his family from the 60's the 70's, chopping down and decorating our tree, taking Neko for her traditional Christmas evening walk - these are all good things that I cherish. Yet it's funny how a few unhappy memories seem to skitter across one's brain at this time of year, unwanted and uninvited. For example, I was wrapping gifts the other night when an image of worst Christmas of all time (2004) interrupted my moment of Santa serenity: after a miserable holiday feast at my then-husband's family's house, where he'd seemed ill at ease with everyone and me in particular, he confessed that he didn't love me anymore. Ho ho ho indeed!
I'll never forget the awful gifts he gave me that year either, which made sense after his yuletide confession. They were absolutely devoid of any sentiment or affection: a set of measuring spoons, a hideous huge apron that didn't fit, and a purple laundry basket. Sure, I was just starting up my preserves business, and yes, my favourite colour at the time was purple, but I mean, REALLY - Merry Christmas wife of almost 10 years - here's a bunch of utentsils & a laundry basket?? I should have skewered him with the sharp end of a broken tree ornament. To top it off, he stuffed a can of Pepsi in my stocking, knowing full well that I loathe Pepsi and adore Coke. No one deserved a lump of coal thrown at his head more than my ex that year.
Thankfully, memories like these, although still slightly prickly, no longer have the sting they once had. It's next to impossible to linger on nasty bits of my past now that I am blessed with the love of a good man and his family. So I paused in my wrapping (purple paper, which must have triggered the laundry basket incident) just long enough for a head shake, an eye roll and a rueful giggle.
I truly am blessed these days, and it's good to remind myself of this daily, but the holidays do give one time to pause and consider the past, savour the present and turn hopefully toward the future.