We'll be spending Christmas here:
I'm dreading it.
That's not exactly fair to say. The problem is, I've never been someone who wanted to do Christmas at the beach. To me, Christmas is about the same cheesy traditions in the small town where I grew up. We drive around to look at the lights. We meet up with old friends in town for the holidays. We watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation with my parents. We open gifts one at a time. We play Christmas trivia pursuit. We eat homemade Christmas candy. We go to my aunt Tammi's and have a noisy and chaotic Christmas dinner with the extended family. We play Dominos and listen to my Nana shout at people. We go to the eleven o'clock Christmas Eve service and at midnight, the whole congregation stands in a circle around the sanctuary, everyone holding a lit candle, all the lights turned off, and we sing "Silent Night," waiting for the bell tower to ring in Christmas day at the stroke of midnight. We hope for snow and rarely get it, so we learn to appreciate the way sparkling lights are set off by drab brown trees and damp, chilly nights.
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and one of the many things I looked forward to about being a parent was starting our own Christmas traditions and sharing the excitement of the holiday with our little ones. My grandma started an angel collection for my mom when she was little, and when I was born, my mom started one for me. I wanted Eliza to have her own angel collection. I wanted her to get an ornament every year, just like my brother and I did. I wanted her to write letters to Santa and choose a toy each year for a child in need. I wanted her to learn the Christmas story and to believe in the magic of Santa Claus. I wanted to read her The Night Before Christmas and teach her to sing "Away In the Manger." I wanted to buy her new pajamas each year to wear on Christmas Eve. I wanted my mom to make her a homemade stocking. I wanted to focus this Christmas especially not on gifts, but on how lucky we were to have each other and our baby girl.
I wanted a lot for Christmas this year. And obviously I didn't get any of it. It may seem childish and ineffectual, but my response to this great disappointment is that if I can't have the Christmas I want, I won't have any Christmas at all.
I will boycott it all together.
This is a great idea in theory. In reality, skipping it sucks. Not as much as it would suck to act like things are normal and go through the motions, but still. Not great.
I love Christmas. Unabashedly, cheesily, ridiculously love it. I love my family. I love our simple Christmas traditions. I love thoughtfully shopping for gifts that I think people will love. I love wrapping presents and tying them with real ribbons instead of stick-on bows. I love making cute gift tags. I love decorating the tree, and seeing all the presents under it, each one representing someone we love. I love stringing a ribbon across our dining room doorway and using mini-clothespins to hang Christmas cards from it. I love bustling stores at Christmas time. I love holiday parties. I love that David puts lights up on our house every year, and that he's a total perfectionist about it. I love setting the dining room table with Christmas centerpieces, I love hanging our square red-berry wreath on the door, I love substituting a Christmasy doormat for our regular one, I love sitting in our living room with just the Christmas lights on and candles glowing, drinking hot chocolate with a splash of Bailey's, or sipping red wine and watching movies with David.
This year, I am having none of it. There are no decorations up in our house. Our tree is put away. My angel collection is in the shed. We've received very few Christmas cards, and we're not sending any. We politely declined party invitations from our co-workers. We fastforward Christmas commercials, we avoid Christmas music, we're not making any foods that are specifically "Chirstmas-y." We're just ignoring the holiday all together. Honestly, it's not a great way to get through the holidays, but it's the only thing I have the energy to do this year.
Most people have been very understanding of this, but some people seem to think that we're letting our loss overshadow everything and we should be more thankful for things (and people) we do have in our life. I can sort of understand this perspective. I'm certainly very grateful for my family and our friends who have been so supportive this year. I understand that these people deserve to be appreciated and celebrated. I miss my extended family, whom I haven't seen since last fall. I hope they all realize that my absence from family Christmas is not because I don't love them or want to see them, but just because I can't bear to be there without my baby.
I just cannot imagine trying to have a traditional family Christmas this year. Not when it is so far removed from the Christmas we had hoped to have. I think that going through the motions would be really painful, and even though I adore my cousins and their cute little kids, it will break my heart to have to witness everything we're missing out on. I don't want to be that girl who's crying through Christmas, and I just don't see the point in putting ourselves through that this year. It just feels too hard. I think the people who love us most understand and accept that.
We decided to travel somewhere warm and sunny and different. People keep asking me if I'm excited about Mexico. I don't know how to answer that. Yes, I'm looking forward to having my husband all to myself for a week. I'm looking forward to 80 degree weather and sunshine. I'm looking forward to my daily agenda being "read book poolside." Or maybe "golf nine holes." I can't complain about the opportunity to take a tropical vacation from the dreariness of daily life. But am I excited to be spending Christmas this way? Not exactly.
I've never spent a Christmas away from my mom and dad and I already feel teary and homesick just thinking about it. I miss my brother and the way he staggers out of bed on Christmas morning, bleary-eyed and needing coffee and a shave. I hate missing out on all our usual traditions. I hate that I miss out on seeing relatives we just see a couple times a year. I'm sad because it just doesn't feel like Christmas at all. But that's the thing. I don't want it to feel like Christmas. I don't want Christmas without Eliza.
So we're going to the beach. Just the two of us. My parents are going to my mom's sister's house in Arizona. My brother is spending Christmas with a friend in Shanghai, China. I hate that I'm not going to see them at Christmas, but I also know that for us, this year, this is the best way to get through the holiday. By ignoring it all together. I don't think we could do this forever. I don't think this solution is the right one for everyone. But I just can't imagine doing anything else this year, when the pain and loss still feel so fresh.
The word "solution" is totally wrong, though. This decision doesn't fix anything, or make me feel any better. It's just one more distraction. It's our attempt to get through the day/week with as few grief-triggers as possible. It's certainly not a perfect way to get through the holidays. It's just the best we can do right now.
And I know, I can't really bitch about this:
But when you compare it to the Christmas I wanted to have this year, it doesn't even come close. And that's what everything keeps coming back to. I miss our baby girl so much. I don't want to have Christmas without her.