When the afternoon bell rang last Friday at school, I was out of work for an entire, heavenly week! WOOOOO HOOOOOO!!!! Chris headed to New York for a bachelor party this pas weekend, so I loaded the kids and Big Molly up and we headed to my mom’s for a weekend-long visit. When I found myself sitting in her sunroom on Saturday morning, drinking my morning coffee (which is really my morning Diet Coke because I don’t drink coffee…), I knew I had made the right choice.
We spent the day baking cookies with the kids and just generally taking it easy.
On Sunday, we decorated Mom’s Christmas tree. For some reason, all of us are in the Christmas spirit earlier this year than usual. Mom and I think it’s because we spent the past two years sort of dreading the holidays without my dad. It just didn’t feel joyful without him, and the dread of waking up on Christmas morning without him hung heavily on all our hearts.
But this year, it feels a little different. We are looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’ve been listening to Christmas music for WEEKS already! I think we are making up for those two years of sadness.
It doesn’t mean that it isn’t still sad without my dad at the holidays. Christmas would be infinitely happier with him harassing my mom about all her shopping, playing with the grandkids while we decorated Christmas cookies, or making a huge mess in the kitchen while he prepared his famous dressing. But this year, we can think about those things and be merry.
On Saturday afternoon, we hung ornaments on Mom’s tree that told a lifetime of stories. Ornaments from places our family had traveled when I was growing up, from trips she and my dad had taken together, from the years when my sister and I were born, when new houses were bought, from 30 years of wedding anniversaries, from when engagements and weddings took place, when grandbabies arrived (or, as my mom calls them, the “baby grands”). There were popsicle angels and felt reindeer. A giant, scary horse head my sister made that year she learned to sew. Sugared fruit that had long-ago lost its sparkle. And this year, even a new addition to the Christmas tree…
I think it’s the first ornament my mom has added since Dad’s passing, and how appropriate that it should mark the next big milestone in our family’s history. My sister’s baby girl, Faith, who will join us in January (unless she, too, is anxious for the holidays and decides to make her appearance sooner!). Such a poignant reminder that life goes on.
But here’s the thing that the third holiday season without my dad has taught me. No, life doesn’t go on as it was before. But it doesn’t go on with a veil of grief wrapped around it, either. Life goes on to wonderful, spectacular things. BIG THINGS. Experiences and memories and adventures continue to happen in our lives, and with each ornament added to our Christmas tree, with each story we tell as we hang in just the right place on just the right branch, we take my dad with us.
It has taken us three years, but I think my family is learning how to do that. And it feels good in my heart. It feels joyful in my soul. I miss him dearly. So very, very much that if I stop and think about it for too terribly long, that familiar weight of loss is just almost too heavy to bear. But that feeling of loss can be healed with a funny memory of him or in hearing someone tell a story about him. Or even by standing next to my mom’s Christmas tree, remembering a lifetime of happy memories and looking forward to the next happy memories to come.