I’m really looking forward to the holidays this year.
I feel like that’s weird and that many widows dread the holidays, especially the first – I’ve seen it on an online forum for widows that I regularly visit, I’ve read it on other widows’ blogs, the peer grief group handed out a 12 page document on dealing with the holidays.
But I can’t wait.
Last year, the kids, my mom, the dog and I were in a tiny corporate-housing apartment. We had Thanksgiving dinner at Cracker Barrel. We didn’t have any of our baking stuff, so there were no homemade holiday cookies or breads. Our Christmas decorations were in storage so we had a cheap fake tree with cheap, meaningless ball ornaments.
It wasn’t the same. It didn’t feel like the holidays.
The year before, Mike was in bad shape. He didn’t have Thanksgiving dinner with us, and he and I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day fighting. He didn’t even help bring the kids’ presents down and put them under the tree. The tension was incredible and it wasn’t fun for anyone. THAT was a sucky holiday season.
Thinking back even further, and knowing that Mike’s alcoholism started LONG before I knew about it, most of our holidays as a family were not good. Not the way I wanted them to be. Not the memories I want for my kids.
I have AMAZING memories of holidays with my parents. The holidays were my favorite time of the year. Both my parents had rough childhoods, and they made sure that the holiday season was over-the-top for us. Feeling the love of family. Creating incredible memories. Telling stories of holidays past. And, of course, the presents – every one picked with love and care, specially selected for the recipient. There’s only one word for the seasons’ memories that I have: love.
I always wanted to instill these kind of happy memories in my kids, but Mike and his family never did much for the holidays. There were no stockings. No big dinners (unless you count the men-eat-first-thing). No stories about each and every ornament on the tree. Presents weren’t meaningful or personal. I know Mike liked the ideas of my family’s traditions, but he just didn’t GET them, didn’t understand how to LIVE them.
This is going to be different. I’m writing the story now. I get to dictate the memories my kids will have.
My mom has already taken over the dining room and kitchen for holiday baking. She’s planning dozens and dozens of cookie trays for family, friends and neighbors. She’s made a dozen kinds of sweet breads. The kids helped her decorate sugar cookies and press cookies over the weekend. Tiny pies and cookie bars have been made and frozen already. And peanut butter balls and more cookies are on the agenda for this week. It smells like the holidays everyday when I come home. It’s lovely.
We’ve planned the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner menus. Thanksgiving will be small, just us. And since I don’t eat turkey, we’re not having a “traditional” menu, but it will be grand and festive nevertheless. And we’re inviting my mom’s dad to stay with us for Christmas, which will be nice.
My Christmas shopping is nearly finished. My mom and I are avid Black Friday shoppers, and we couldn’t go together last year. (My previous job was heavily focused on retail, and I had to work. I still hit the stores before going into the office at 5 a.m., but it wasn’t the same going alone, without my mom.) Lauren is going to “baby school” (daycare), and Ethan will be at the tae kwon do studio all day. I’m very excited about spending some one-on-one time with my mom – and finishing my shopping.
I’m planning on decorating over the Thanksgiving break. It’s a week earlier than I normally do, but I just can’t wait. I want my tree, my ornaments, the needlework canvases my grandma made – I want it to look like Christmas exploded in the house.
(SIDENOTE: I knew as soon as I saw my current house that it is the perfect holiday home. The HUGE windows, the two-story entryway. Before I even made an offer, I knew where I’d put the Christmas tree and I pictured evergreen garland on the upstairs railings. I.Can’t.Wait!)
Ethan has already commented that it will be the first holiday without his dad (which technically isn’t true since Mike was living with his parents last holiday, and he kept canceling plans to see the kids). So there will be some tough times, I’m sure.
But it’s time to start creating memories for these kiddos. Something good. Something positive. Something happy. Something they can take forward to their kids and their grandkids.
It’s time to celebrate.