Good grief, it’s almost Christmas

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  “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?  Aaaaahhhhhh.” ~ Charlie Brown

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 This photo may be a crude interpretation of a ping-pong table, but this is my creation for my mom’s memorial Charlie Brown Christmas tree this year.  As part of our new traditions, my brother, his family and I agreed to either make or buy an ornament that reminds us of a funny story of my mom.  Because this is the first Christmas without her, we will keep those funny memories alive by telling the story behind the ornament as we hang it on the tree.  I’m sure Charlie Brown would be proud.

Charlie Brown was determined to find the true meaning of Christmas and, after being dismayed by all the commercialism surrounding the holiday, he discovered that it is not about the presents.  Christmas isn’t a gift that you can unwrap, it’s a feeling that embraces you and warms you.   Christmas is sharing your heart with others and remembering those who cannot be with you.

This year, this is one of the many ways we will remember my mom.  This ornament reminds me of some of the best parts of my mother – her carefree attitude, her sense of humor and her zest for life, along with her quest to take ping-pong to a whole new level.  Although my heart may feel empty now, I know as we share some love and laughter during the holidays, my heart will once again be filled with joy and the spirit of the holiday.

My wish for all of you this holiday season is to find the same joy and happiness that I know I will find being with family and friends.  Christmas is about presence, not presents.  The spirit of the holiday is about spending time with the ones you love and allowing yourself to be cloaked in their hugs and saturated by their laughter.

The best of the holiday to all of you.

It’s all fun and games until you run into the Minister

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Lately, I’ve been happily ensconced in a world of avoidance.  The less I think about Christmas, the fewer the number of tears that threaten to roll down my cheeks.  I have only managed to put up one Christmas decoration in my house so far.   It didn’t come with shiny lights or reminders of Christmases gone by.  It stands alone,  in a spot that has never adorned a decoration and really looks as sad as I had been feeling.  But it gives me hope that I can find some of the joy the holidays are meant to bring.  If Charlie Brown can do it, so can I.

CB the tree

But recently I’ve felt much more like Peter Pan than a forlorn Charlie Brown.  My mind has been filled with happy thoughts.  Although none of them have been about the holidays, they have been happy nonetheless.  I have been blissfully distracted by work, by the return of my writing muse and by reacquainting with a dear old friend.  The big phantom red X’s on the calendar to indicate the counting down to the big day have gone unnoticed.  Until today.

It was during an innocent trip to the Post Office when I saw him.  Stealthily, he crossed the street like an apparition.  His white hair and white beard made me recognize him immediately.  Had he been wearing red suit, I would have thought he was Santa Claus but the all-black ensemble with a hint of white on the collar to match his beard was a glowing reminder of his true identity.  He was the minister at my mom and dad’s church, a dear friend of my mom and dad’s and a good friend to our family.  I knew as soon as I saw him that I would end up in tears before getting back into my car.

It’s always tough putting on a brave face when the person you are facing knows that you are struggling.  I like to think I walk around in a suit of armor but on the bad days that suit is filled with nothing but a puddle.  Today, seeing the sorrow and understanding in Steven’s eyes converted me from brave face to wet face in mere seconds.  I knew the happy bubble could only float for so long but I certainly have been enjoying the ride.

I know my mom is around.  She is the positive force making the good things pop out of nowhere when the sadness comes calling again.  I can feel her energy and that makes me happy.  And though this Christmas is going to be filled with some sadness and many changes, it will still be filled with a family who loves each other and cherishes the memories of the people they will be missing, especially during the coming holidays.

 

 

Redefining traditions and stocking up on tissues

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With Christmas rapidly approaching, my resolve to not spend the entire holiday season in tears is very strong.  It is going to be tough this holiday season without my mom but we have been doing our best to redefine some of the traditions we have known for so long and create some new ones.  I had carefully delineated a plan of not leaving the house, but that seems to be going off the rails so I’ll have to do my best to keep a brave face.  I’m sure a few tears will leak from the corners of my eyes and stain my cheeks but that is to be expected and will certainly be understood by all who see those tears fall.

Holidays are about tradition – whether adhering to old ones or beginning new ones.  This year will be a bit of both.  My mom’s famous Grasshopper Pie will surreptitiously make its way to the table after our feast of turkey and our best attempt at her stuffing.  But because of work schedules, our Christmas food bonanza and subsequent turkey coma will be on the 23rd so that will be the first of the changes for this year.

grasshopper pie

My brother and his family will attend the church service on Christmas Eve (I don’t think I can get through that step this year) and we will meet afterwards to show the newly purchased or creatively engineered ornaments to adorn the Charlie Brown Christmas tree my mom loved so much.  We will tell stories of why the ornament reminds us of her and take turns sharing our memories.  I may even sneak into town and hide in a quiet driveway somewhere to watch Santa Claus go by on the fire truck.  I don’t think I can let that tradition go and I know a few tears will find themselves frozen to my face before the truck has passed.

The most important thing to focus on, especially this year, is that Christmas is about family.  My brother, sister-in-law, my nephews and the family and friends scattered around the globe will always be the presence and the only presents I want during the holidays.  And somewhere during the festivities, I know that my mom and dad’s eyes will be looking at us through those twinkling lights and sharing those moments with us.  That is a tradition that will never end.