Tuesday, December 22, 2015

And so this is Christmas.

“Mom, how do I get <Thing 1> to be nice because at this point I’m thinking of returning his Christmas present. He whacked me with his charger and is yelling at me. And I don’t want to see him. I am also feeling homesick.”

There are exactly three sleeps, five available hours and three missing presents left before The. Big. Day. 

When it comes to December I am, I admit, an eternal optimistic. I dream of a Christmas that is perfect and warm and cozy and glows silvery white. 

Living just shy of the North Pole, I remember holiday seasons wrapped in the smell of my mother’s baking and colored lights dancing in the frozen crystals on the window ledge. Eternal darkness meant that holiday decorations never dimmed and Bing Crosby crooned in the living room. We pored over the beautiful images in the Sears Christmas Wish Book while the furnace kept the howling winds outside at bay. We heard bells outside as Santa arrived to make a quick stop before he headed south, promising to visit our house just before he finished his rounds and headed home. We alternated between sleeping and suffering through Alistair Sims’ Ebenezer Scrooge and our little town walked to midnight mass on Christmas Eve as one, each in a new, elaborate hand-sewn parka that celebrated the talents of the mother, the warmth of tradition and the spirit of the coming new year. We danced and laughed and feasted until dawn, slipping away to sleep while the stockings were filled.

Christmas morning was filled with laughter and warmth, but Christmas Eve has always meant something more. 

Somewhere along the way, the magic of that dark night air slipped away and I want it back. We, every one of us, race with breakneck abandon from store to errand to obligation. The kids get cabin fever, close quarters and expectations fuel bickering, and for those of us who have to work to the eleventh hour, it’s simply a race to the finish line with no time to stop under the mistletoe. 

Hardly warm, cozy or magical.

This year, more than any other, I wish that Santa will fill my stocking with calm and joy that would last the whole year long. Walking through the door, I’m greeted by the glow of the tree and my heart fills calm and joy as I remember.

I unpacked the wine glasses yesterday.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ready. Or Not.

“I’m not ready.”

Her voice is whisper thin in the dark, a warm caress that pulls on my heart and tugs at the edges of the wound hidden deep inside me. The same way that I know the quiver in her voice nips at the edges of her own. 

For weeks our lives have been a whirlwind of mayhem, a cacophony of boxes and bags and lasts and firsts. They have risen to the occasion, sorting through mementos and parting with once-prized treasures now tattered and torn at the bottom of the playroom. They’ve packed boxes and erupted in hot cocoa-fueled giggles over Christmas carols as I’ve filled all the seconds between hockey and gymnastics and sleeping and eating and working.

Throughout it all we’ve been filled with a quiet resignation that, after all these years and the planning and the determination, it is finally here. 

And despite our excitement and our readiness, a quiet melancholy has been building. This is the only home they’ve ever known. And this is the home that has shaped who I am today. Its walls are filled with our laughter and our sadness, our anger and our recovery. It holds every moment, and every memory, of the past decade. And tonight we will close our eyes wrapped in its warm embrace for the last time.

Tomorrow morning we will empty the final drawer, and close the final door. And we’ll carry with us every memory and every scar.

“I won’t have any memories in the new house. And I really love this house so much … and when we talked about a new house I didn’t know it would be this hard.”

Wiping the hot tears from her face with the velvety ear of the bunny that has been her constant companion for all of the moments we’ve lived in this house, the familiar pain twists deep in my heart. Wrapping my arms around her, my tears join hers as they’ve done so many times before in the dark of this house.

“Lovely girl … I didn’t know either.”