I am sitting still on the phone listening to my friend complain about going from her mother-in-law’s house to her own mother’s for Christmas dinner. I inwardly shake my head. I love my friend, and at the same time I want to yell at her on how lucky she and her kids are to have family fighting over where to go for Christmas.
It has been 26 years since I shared my last Christmas with my mom. I can still hear the wrapping paper crinkle, ice in her rum and coke tinkle and the squeal from my younger sister over what Santa brought. I can still feel the warmth of her hugs. It was the last year of my childhood. I was ten years old.
The years that followed without her, I could not get into the Christmas spirit. It was not the same. The void always darkened the room despite other family members trying to make it a good day for us. I still missed her and didn’t understand why she was gone. The grief engulfed me when I became a mom. My girls did not have their grandmother.
Then something changed for the better. I began to talk about my mother to my young daughters by showing them pictures of my childhood and sharing memories. I relived the singing carols, watching her favorite holiday movies and the fun she made just being with her. By opening my heart’s door it made her the grandma she is which made me feel better and lighter. I had buried many of the happy parts of my childhood until now. Though I know she will never be back, I can not ignore the fact in talking about how amazing she was, and still is, in my heart.
After many discussions with my husband, we decided to have a quiet house over the festive holidays. We had nowhere else to go as other family had passed away or moved out of town. After gifts were opened and played with, we stayed in our pjs for as long as possible. Games are a plentiful and movies are replayed over and over. Big Christmas dinners are replaced with snacking all day long on favorite foods. The car remains in the garage all day long.
When we let go of the sorrow and what we can’t control, we build our children’s memories of this time. We enjoy the magic of the season with each other.
As my friend wraps up the call, I take a sip of my wine. I smile as I say good-bye. I am relieved that what I thought I wanted for my daughters is not the reality of traditions that we have built. The legacy that we give them any day of the year is unconditional love. We need to stop the coulda, shoulda and woulda in our lives. Our life is what it is. Our family may be small. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.