This is a little bit different and totally depressing, so I’d skip it if I were you:
I don’t hate Christmas. I just understand people who do. You see, I had a tiny pity party for myself in the Christmas wrapping paper aisle at Target earlier this month.
My parents and grandparents are dead, as are a few other key people from my childhood. I live in a different state than the one I grew up in and I don’t live within 30 minutes of dear friends let alone family. I have a stepbrother I never see (though I adore him) and I don’t have any kids of my own.
Mostly I’m fine with all of that (or at least at peace with it). I am very connected via technology and have lots of great friends that live all over the place that I regularly talk to. I’m not prone to pity parties, not really.
Generally speaking, I wouldn’t mention a tiny Target pity party from early in December. But sometimes I worry that I focus too much on the unpleasant memories of the people I’ve lost–it makes the grief easier to swallow. Mostly I try not to think too much about them because I fear the space where they used to be will become a sinkhole and I’ll lose myself in it.
But I know those are melodramatic thoughts, not true to life. In real life your father can die on the prettiest spring day you’ve ever seen, and the birds will just keep on singing. Life goes on. And the people I’ve lost each left their mark on me, helped formed who I am. I carry them with me in my head even when I’m not conscious of it.
Still I lingered over the glittering Christmas ornaments and silly knick knacks at Target, not thinking of much beyond my own house until I turned down the wrapping paper aisle. I had to stop short and beat a hasty retreat as I was briefly overwhelmed by feelings of grief.
I loved to pick out presents, agonizing over just the right gift, hoping it was the right fit, the perfect color, the gift that would make the person receiving it feel like I understood their style, their sense of humor, had phoned Santa directly and picked an item off their secret wish list (yes, I am an egomaniac).
But that was just the start because there is really nothing better than a gorgeously wrapped present! My mother was an exceptional gift wrapper. Picking out our wrapping paper was an annual tradition–it all had to match or complement. She loved foil wrapping with big bows and ribbons. One year we did all red foil with gold ribbons and bows and Christmas morning felt like an episode of Dynasty it was all so glamorous! And that was before we’d even opened the presents.
So I was flooded with all of these happy Christmas memories sparked by the wrapping paper aisle. My mother’s love of decorations and wrapping paper. My maternal grandmother’s tendency to be silly and crack us up at the Christmas dinner table–she once made little edible people out of the relish tray and happily made dirty jokes about pickles to scandalize my father’s mother! My father’s unbridled enthusiasm for a good Christmas dinner–we often had Cornish game hens, which were more fun than tasty if memory serves. His mother’s amazing cookies and breads and the piles and piles of food she’d make for just our immediate family on Christmas Eve. My grandfather carefully assembling a Barbie Dream Swimming Pool like it was as important as any project in his wood shop. And those thoughts made me happy but also terribly sad.
Sometimes the hardest thing about the happy memories is that I’m the only person alive to remember them.