My family has always been all about Christmas. Over the top decorations, Christmas Eve with Santa, my grandmother getting my grandfather to make reindeer prints on the porch roof, fresh cut Christmas trees filled with ornaments, dozens of kinds of Christmas cookies, lefse, Christmas Eve and Christmas brunch, Dayton's 8th floor, holiday shows, caroling, Christmas lights limo tours, presents both handmade and just what you wanted from your list, Toys for Tots, family from all over the world, Christmas cards, luminaria, parties — you get the picture. I'm hard-wired genetically to love the season.
Until four years ago, when my mom went into the hospital on December 12 and died on Christmas Day.
The next Christmas seemed strange, and then crashed again when my aunt ended up in the emergency room with a lung issue that, for quite some time, seemed like cancer and cost her part of a lung.
We've been building up since then, trying to regain family traditions, a strange mix of love for the holiday and a deep, painful, raw missing of my mother. We've started new traditions, like spending part of Christmas Day with friends who understand the mix of pain and joy.
This year, Beatrix is all about Christmas — that genetic love of the holiday is obvious. She shouts "It's Christmastime!" She sings carols. She kisses all the ornaments on the tree. She bakes cookies. She watches The Grinch and A Charlie Brown Christmas. She tells anyone who will listen that Santa is bringing her a princess teddy bear.
And then yesterday it all came screeching to a halt again when Patrick's mother suffered a stroke and then a car crash while driving from Iowa City to New Orleans.
It could have been so much worse. She's doing as well as can be expected. Patrick flew down right away, and he and his siblings are down there (just outside of New Orleans) with her; I want desperately to be, but really, it's not practical to add Beatrix and myself to the equation. So we're up here, trying to hold steady and keep Christmas as well as we can, while missing our family like a hole cut into our hearts. I'm really trying to make Christmas for her, but I don't know that I'm doing a very good job.
I just want Christmas back, and I am so, so afraid I am never going to get it.