It’s Christmas Day. I’m watching several versions of Yule Log, sipping coffee and reveling in the quirky, meaningful gifts that surround me, like the Easter Island Garden statue that will help to form a new garden in the spring. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Christmas for as long as I can remember.
As a kid, there were a few short years where my parents and I formed the “Hallmark holiday,” they were a newly married couple with the daughter they never thought they’d have. They’d lost my brother and sister, twins, just a year before. For a few years, all was calm and bright. Then, we lost my dad.
I say all this, not for sympathy, but to help make sense of the wild ride this time of year brings forth for my emotions. The childhood years that followed were happy at times, but there was always something missing. We tried to find that something at church, my mother and I going faithfully and participating in all the carol singing and candle lit services. It brought some comfort, but as we sat side by side, I could feel the unspoken thoughts exchanged between us – merciful God had let us down. It was hard to feel joyful when Dad was taken away. The hole in our hearts was hard to fill.
As I grew to adulthood, I overcompensated, trying to make up for everything so that my Mom could enjoy her holiday. We went on trips and I gave her elaborate gifts. She loved them all and we managed some very happy times, all with a tinge of longing, but the hole was filling in, a little. We found some comfort in giving to others, and that tradition helped quite a lot. It still helps, more than most.
Mom’s been gone now 22 years. At times, the thought still devastates me. Every holiday season, I have at least one meltdown. I’ve decided that’s ok. Somehow, it keeps my love for her at the forefront. She’d be delighted to know that I have a loving husband and family who mean the world to me. Their love fills the hole a little more with each year.
To all who, like me, still have a little hole in their heart at the holidays, I offer you this: remember that you are not alone, be gentle with yourself, feel whatever feelings you have without apology, celebrate small victories, stay home when you need to, be a light for someone who is hurting more than you are, give thanks and know that you are a cherished being, worthy of love and happiness.