The holidays are coming, and this year, they are not being greeted with the usual excitement. This year the anticipation has been replaced by dread.
When holidays are about family get-togethers, seeing others open the gifts you gave and watching their faces beam with joy, laughing together, and enjoying everybody, when those people are gone, it is hard. Traditions are hard when the traditional people aren't there to enjoy them with you. It could be parents, spouse, children, or friends.
When lives change big, big holes are created where the treasures used to be.
In our home, we are very traditional. We have a huge tree, five-foot diameter at the base, and eight feet tall. We bought it a few years ago to hold all our ornaments. Our ornaments are ones we've been collecting since 1988. The first Christmas Rob and I dated, we bought an ornament and had it personalized with both our names. Every Christmas after that we either bought an ornament with our names or we each bought an ornament. Then we had our four-legged children because we weren't planning to have two-legged ones, and they each got an ornament. Then Anna got her ornament. Then Robert got his ornament. It took time, but we eventually removed all ornaments that were not personal either in name of memory. All we have are named ornaments or ornaments with stories. It is pretty neat actually. Every year we put up the ornaments and tell the stories and laugh all over again.
Except this year the stories are a bit more painful than funny, and the personal ornaments that brought such great joy only magnify the empty place of the person not here to put up his ornament...either here with us or at his house with the kids.
My parents are gone. There is no family get together.
All the things we loved--the PEOPLE--we loved aren't here, and the hole is huge.
So, we held a meeting.
The very real option of ditching the holidays and going on a trip was put on the table. The option to not up a tree was laid out there, too. The option to scratch what we had always done and start all over was dropped into the mix.
"Like what what?"
"Like what like we've never done?"
"Like anything we want to do."
"I like the tree," I ventured. "I like to turn on the lights, listen to quiet music, and just be."
Two heads nod.
"But I can't put up the personal ornaments this year." My voice cracks without permission.
Two heads nod.
"We can get new ornaments," I suggest.
Two bodies come to attention.
"Really? We can do that?"
"Really. We can do that."
Today we did.
We went tropical with lime green, Caribbean blue, and hot pink. Streamers and viney looking straight ornaments in all colors, fancy pink butterflies, lime dragon flies, and blue flowers. It is our Christmas Carnival tree. A million miles from the stoic somber trees we usually see. None of the Christmas decorum for us. No, sirree. We are all about celebration...in the brightest sense of the word.
We shopped for our unit in Afghanistan while we were at it. Tomorrow we bake cookies and put a box of homemade, "You rock. Thank you for all you do!" in the mail.
I don't know.
But I have a feeling it will include laughter, a lot of cookies, some Kleenex, and Latin rhythms.
I wish I knew a way to make it better. I wish I knew a way to take away the ache. I wish...
I already see them.