Oh thank God Christmas is over! Don't get me wrong; the holiday itself was really quite nice. It was all the fuss that led up to it (decorating, shopping, coordinating family plans...) that drove me nuts. The days and weeks that lead up to Christmas seem to be little more than one excuse after another to spend, spend, spend. A time for people to make demands and stress over how much food to buy for however many guests that are coming; calculating at what precise moment the roast needs to be in the oven in order to be ready when the potatoes are ready to be served. Is there enough eggnog? Do I have enough tape to wrap presents? Did I get everyone an equal amount of stocking stuffers? What should I wear to the church service?...No matter how much I try to just sit back and watch the madness, I can't help but feel the ever growing tension in everyone around me, both family and strangers alike, as the holiday creeps near.
Once we made it to the holiday, thankfully everything seemed to slow down. It was as if all the coffee-infused Hallmark headaches suddenly dissipated when a month's worth of work had finally come to fruition. We spent Christmas Eve at my parent's place. It's always so refreshing how casual it is at my parent's home during the holiday. Christmas Eve with them is nothing more than a delicious family dinner and an exchange of gifts. In fact, this year was even better than it has been in several years considering that it was the first Christmas without my ex-sister-in-law. Without her there to complain, fight, or cry over something, it felt so much more like the casual happy holidays we would have when I was a kid.
This year, my father also started a new tradition. Since his father passed away this year, he inherited my Grandpa's Santa Clause suit. Each year, my Grandpa used to dress up as Santa Clause for the church and all the neighborhood children. Well this year, my father carried on the tradition. On Christmas Eve night, after dinner, my dad dressed up in the Santa suit and delivered gifts to the children in the neighborhood. His last stop was our house to visit my nephew Isaiah. When my father came in, his eyes and nose barely visible under all the whiskers and red velvet, I nearly lost my breath. He looked so much like my Grandpa. His eyes, his nose, the padded frame (although my father was padded with pillows)...He came up to me and wished me and Sunshine a merry Christmas.
Later that night on our way home, I burst into tears. "What's wrong?" My husband asked.
"When I hugged my dad...it felt like I was hugging my Grandpa." I cried.
As we continued to talk, we got on the subject of Joey. It was hard to watch my nephew play with his new toys, thinking...our son should've been here. My husband confessed, as tears streaked his face; "when I looked down the hall at the light in your old room, the room your parents have now converted to be Isaiah's second bedroom, I couldn't help but feel like my son should've been in there. What if he had his own room there?...What if he was just down that hallway?..." We both cried, quietly in the car. Although the holiday had been great, the absence of our loved ones passed seemed greater.
On Christmas day, my husband and I celebrated the holiday with his brother and our new sister-in-law-to-be. It was wonderfully casual and relaxing. We opened gifts, drank peppermint hot chocolate, and sat talking and laughing for hours.
All in all, the holiday was quite beautiful. The madness that lead up to it nearly pushed me to my limit. But as I sat there on Christmas morning, my hand resting on my pregnant belly, looking up at the dancing flame of Joey's candle we had lit earlier that morning, and remembering the hug I had shared with my father and grandpa just the night before, I couldn't help but feel the true spirit of the holiday.