This is for my daughter, and for me, and for anyone else out there who’s lost someone this year.
Our family is slightly obsessed with Christmas. We have a great many traditions, most of them odd and silly, that mean the world to us. For instance, when greeting each other via phone or in person on Christmas day, the first person to yell, “Christmas present!” when picking up the phone or opening the door, gets a little extra present. Usually, a candle or lip balm or shower gel. It’s just silly fun. My Aunt tried to cheat one year and sent an email out at 12:01 a.m. Christmas morning. Email was very quickly banned from the game.
This year though is so very different. You see the person who has always been responsible for making Christmas so magical to me, is gone. Christmas was mom’s thing. She came alive during the holidays more so than any other time of the year. The first snow fall of the season and I’d get a phone call with, “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas” playing on her end. And of course we’d always watch White Christmas and bake cookies on the first snowfall too. After Christmas, if it snowed, mom would turn the outdoor Christmas lights on, even if it was March. And stockings! Oh my word, I think I picked up the torch for that one and really carried it on. Stockings were fare game after everyone was asleep. You could run out at 3:17 in the morning and grab your stocking and dive in. It was perfect! Lots of neat little goodies. I think to this day, opening my stocking is still my favorite part.
We loved all the old Christmas movies, and one in particular really comes to mind this year. Meet Me In St. Louis. Oh that dress that Judy Garland wore to the Christmas Ball! Every year we’d swoon over that thing. I’d still give up a month’s pay to see my daughter in that thing, she’s the only one of us who could do it justice. This is where the song, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” comes from. And in our family, no one sing’s it best, other than Judy herself. Although Mom did have a huge crush on Michael Bubble and he did it justice as well.
I remember this time last year, my daughter, and my sweetie and I sitting in Cafe D’Italia on the square. Christmas lights twinkled in the restaurant. At one point Michael Bubble’s version of the song came on and we grew quiet, my daughter and I both thinking the same thing. We looked at each other with tears in our eyes knowing this would be mom’s last Christmas. We made a vow then and there and toasted to it, that no matter what, we’d make sure mom’s memory lived on in our Christmases.
It wasn’t until this year, after losing mom and going through all the hardships of last year, all of us starting a brand new life apart from each other, that I really understood the meaning of the song. You see, it’s not really a happy Christmas song. In the movie, Esther (Judy Garland) is comforting her little sister, Tootie, as their family is about to be uprooted and moved across the country away from everyone and all that they love. Esther sings this to her little sister to explain that things aren’t okay right now, but they will be again soon, so go ahead, have yourself a merry little Christmas anyway. Things may not be okay right now, but they will be again. Sometimes it’s the best message we can give.
Christmas feels so different this year without my kids in the house and knowing that when I go home it will not be anything like the Christmases we used to have. I don’t know if we’ll ever have another one like the ones we did when mom was alive. I don’t think we can. And for me that’s scary and sad, but it’s also okay. Because Christmas will still come and there will be new traditions to make and old ones to continue in her memory. Last weekend I lay in my sweetie’s arms crying and saying, “Everything about Christmas has changed.” and he hugged me tightly and said, “Yes, but everything isn’t bad.”
He’s right you know. We are all of us doing so well. I look back on how uncertain and hard our life was this time last year. I look back at how much turmoil there was in the lives of so many of our friends and family. And I look at where we are now. It’s a better place. A few weeks ago my daughter and I renewed our pact to carry Mom with us this year and to keep our silly traditions alive. We will wear kitschy Christmas jewelry and listen to Christmas carols on November 1st. We will bake Christmas cookies until they overflow the house. We will watch White Christmas (and swoon over Rosemary Clooney’s black velvet dress!) And we will make new traditions. I’m taking my boys on their very first train ride on the Santa Express next weekend. My daughter gets to celebrate her newest baby brother’s first Christmas with him and her family in NY. She’s not spent a Christmas morning with her dad since she was little and I’m glad she’s getting this opportunity. I get to spend Christmas with my sweetheart’s family, and oh, his mom and my mom have a lot in common when it comes to Christmas.
Finally a couple of days after Christmas, we will all meet together in NY for new traditions and old as well. And we will be sure that mom is there in spirit. Endings always lead to new beginnings, and I think I know in my heart of hearts that those Christmases I loved so much, are gone, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be other wonderful Christmases ahead. Change is hard and often times scary, but it’s not all bad. My daughter, my friends and family, I leave you with this wish…Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.