Yay, it's time yet again for me to whine about being an orphan!
I have a friend who flat-out hates
Christmas because it makes her miss her late mom so much. I totally understand that, but it's not the case for me. Personally I don't and, so far, can't hate Christmas. But I gotta say, since they've been gone, it just hasn't been the same.
I feel like I try and try, so hard, every year. (This is only my third dadless Christmas and fourth momless, so "every year" isn't really as dramatic as it sounds.) I put up the tree, and decorate it. I throw decorations all over the house; it looks like a tinsel factory exploded. I carefully set up my (mom's) Nativity set, and defend it to all the infidels who criticize its scope -- you know who you are
. (The Dude claims emphatically that Luke Skywalker was not at the birth of Jesus.) (I retort that there is no Luke Skywalker piece
and indeed every figure in my set is a Biblical figure.) (Other wiseacres chime in, "where does the Bible mention cats?") (I say dignifiedly, "I'm not up on my Bible studies but each figure came with a description of how they fit into Biblical times, so I'm sure they have it on good authority that cats were present.") (OK, I do admit that St. Francis of Assisi's life did not in fact overlap with Jesus's. But he's my favorite saint, so, bugger off.) (And why the hell shouldn't
I hide baby Jesus in the loft until Christmas morning? In this tableau he hasn't been born yet
, people. But I digress.)
I write and send dozens (maybe hundreds; I need to get this year's final count) of Christmas cards. Well, "holiday" cards, since several of them go to non-Christians. I buy too many gifts and wrap them reasonably festively, choosing from a way-too-large array of wrapping paper designs. (I've never understood people whose gifts are all wrapped in the same paper. I don't object to the idea, but I know I'll never get down to just one roll. I'm still rotating between rolls bought in the 80s.)
I listen to Christmas music until I can't stand another minute. (If I have to hear one more version of "My Grown-Up Christmas List" I'm gonna lose it.) I dig out my cheesy Christmas earrings and lapel pins. I bake cookies, even, sometimes. But I just don't feel
Sure, the "magic" of Christmas from childhood tends to dissipate once we're older -- we become surly teenagers who think everything is lame, then adults whose parents have to wake us
up Christmas morning because we'd rather sleep 'til noon than get up at 5 a.m. to open presents like when we were kids. (Or was that just me?)
But even up until and through the Christmas of 2006, I still felt Christmas. I still did most of the old routine that we honed over almost 30 years as a family. I went to Mass on Christmas Eve in the same church, sitting in the same part
of the church, as I had every year I could remember. I watched the Sesame Street Christmas special
like I did every Christmas Eve after Mass (on the same rickety old VHS tape we recorded it on when I was little). I still had a little spark of excitement when I woke up the next morning and realized, "ooh! It's Christmas!" Even with my mom gone that year, and my dad super-depressed because of it, the two of us made a point of keeping things as much the same as we could, and it worked for me. I woke up in the same bed I'd woken up in every single Christmas morning of my life. (Well, I probably woke up in a crib the first few years.) I had as ridiculous a number of presents to open as ever, because my parents were insane
(and it was always mostly my dad anyway, and with my mom gone he just bought that much extra for me). I put on the Christmas music and dad and I settled into "our spots" in the living room and tore into our loot. Dad and I argued over which of our new movies we'd watch first on Christmas Day. It was the same exact routine every year.
I don't think I realized, even that last year, how much I loved and, truly, needed
that simple routine. Dad died eight months later and one of the very first things I did after he died was make plans to go away for Christmas
. What I wanted
to do was go back to my empty house alone, but even then I knew that was too macabre. So I decided to splurge and take a trip. It was fine, but it wasn't Christmas to me. Then last year it was The Dude's "turn" (since he'd come with me instead of hanging with his family in 2007) and we went to his parents' house. This year he recognized I might exercise my prerogative to go away again, but I decided we could stay in town, with the caveat that I wanted to wake up in my own bed (not at his parents' house). So we've arranged that to everyone's satisfaction and I'm pretty pleased with the plan. It should be a nice couple of days. But it won't feel like Christmas.
I'm not sure what else I can do to feel the old Christmas feeling. I guess the first step will be to let go of the idea that the only true Christmas (for me) is the one I grew up with, because that is gone. It is not coming back, because it is inextricably linked to people who are no longer living and a house that is no longer mine.
People say their kids' Christmas excitement is contagious. I hope that is the case if/when we have kids. I suppose I will have to (continue to) fake Christmas spirit to get theirs going, and then hopefully one year they will start being excited for Christmas without my assistance, and then hopefully they can get me
excited. Maybe eventually it will stop feeling forced.