When I think they believe that I am asleep, I get out of my bed carefully. I tip toe to my door and open it a crack. I sit by the floor ready to jump into bed if I hear them come down the hall. I can hear my mom and dad watching tv and sipping their drinks at the other end of the house. I barely allow myself to breathe. I hope they go to bed soon so Santa can come. I am wide awake in anticipation to see Santa. After about an hour, my parents shut off the tv.
Finally, I think they need to go to bed. Only they don’t. I hear lights being turned on and furniture being moved. I go down on my belly trying to peer down the hall into the living room to see what is going on. Then I hear my mother. “I am tired. We should get the stuff out. Do you want the cookie?” she asks my dad. His reply is muffled by the sound of paper rustling and a box being ripped open. I can’t take it anymore so I open my door and creep down the hallway to get a better look. My heart stops when I see the Barbie Dream House being built by my dad. Packing materials strewn everywhere.
I almost speak up when I hear my sister moving in her room which is next to where I am standing. I race back into my bed and pull the covers over my head. I wonder if Santa didn’t have time to deliver a put together house so he left it for my dad. Before I could think of anymore sad thoughts, I fall asleep.
“Mommy.” Before I crack an eye open I am smothered in kisses by my three-year-old daughter. She bounces over to her daddy who is pretending to still be sleeping. “It’s Christmas. Santa came. Let’s go!” she demanded. “Keep it down. You will wake your sister.” I requested too late. All the family is up now. We go down the stairs together to the living room.
I smile at the dream I had about that last Christmas I spent with my mom. I never did tell her I found out Santa was not real. The look on my children’s faces makes me wonder if there is still Santa magic. It has been 26 years since my mom died and I still miss her, including the holidays. I still remember her sitting in the black vinyl chair, cane at her side, smiling at us enjoying the Christmas presents. Each day is hard and easy all at once.
Once I gave myself permission to embrace the grief that my children do not have their grandma, I felt lighter. By letting go I began to tell my daughters stories of when I was a kid. Showing them pictures reminds me of the happy times. I do things that remind me of her, like watching her favorite Christmas movie and enjoy her special coffee. She will always be a part of my heart and soul.
My youngest toddles over to me with her new Elmo toy. She gives it a big hug and joins her sister back on the floor. I take a deep sip of my coffee with Baileys just like mom. I feel warmth of the day and the knowledge that my daughters know their grandma. I take great peace in that.
Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones. May you make new traditions while appreciating the past ones.