I’ve Misplaced My Joy – On Holiday Grief
I knew the holidays would be hard, but I didn’t expect this. I’ve been crying for days on and off and I am trying my damnedest not to ruin the holidays for my kids. But I miss my Mom. And I’ve clearly misplaced my joy. Holiday grief is challenging this season.
Christmas Eve Day and Holiday Grief
It’s Christmas Eve Day, the culmination of a season weighty with emotion. A time for joy and celebration and yet the closer we get to Christmas, the more I seem to be crying. In quiet moments, my heart replays a continuous loop of all the sights and sounds from every Christmas my Mom ever made for my brother and I when we were kids.
World’s Greatest Mom Gifts
Our tree, would be decorated every year, branches heavy with stringy tinsel and ornaments each containing years of our tiny family history. Every other branch boasted: Best Teacher 1987 or World’s Greatest Mom bulbs. Cookies baked, rum balls rolled and Canadian Club whiskey purchased for sharing just this one holiday every year.
Holiday Grief and Years Gone By
The year I was 13, I got a beautiful satin blouse I loved. It matched a dressy outfit and screamed teenager to me. It was something I had only dreamed years before drawing fashion sketches for Barbies.
We grew up on records, and our holidays were sprinkled with Mom’s country music and my disco pop dance tunes. Johnny Cash, Rihanna’s Stay and Christmas carols are the soundtrack of my Mother’s life with me. Square dancing, caring, organizing kids. These are my memories of my Mom.
Our Mother Daughter Memories
Over the decades my Mom and I shopped a lot, travelled a little and joked often. We were shopping one year when my brother let a stray cat into our apartment. We returned to find our artificial Christmas tree collapsed. In 1980, in the magical midnight hours driving back from Milton, we brought home a kitten of our own Christmas Eve. Our first pet bigger than a turtle. That Christmas morning my Mom and I woke to find my brother sleeping on the floor of the bathroom worried the kitten was lonely. Fast forward a few years to Christmas again: the scowl on my Mom’s face when I bought my brother a dog without letting her in on the game plan. But she let us keep it, despite the fact we were anything but dog people.
Some Days I Remember All These Missing Pieces
Sometimes I see how happy she was the years she danced around the living room in Guelph with her brother, my Uncle Doug. Hobson family dance parties. Butterball Turkey moist and slathered in gravy and my Grandma at some point every year would pontificate after dinner about Trudeau and his love life. In the background someone was playing Atari.When I close my eyes and listen, I can still hear her in the hospital talking to me right before her lungs stopped working: reminding me school was going to be out soon and I needed to go get my kids. I hear her reminding the nurse that at school she did things once and got them right. A not so gentle reprimand that getting blood taken hurt and shouldn’t need to be done repeatedly.
My own photo albums are crammed with snapshots of my first Christmas as a Mom, and her smiling happily pronouncing her granddaughter the most alert, most capable baby ever to crawl, or coo.
All the Pink
Mountains of pink clothing arrived monthly for the first few years as my Mom revelled in her status as a grandmother. And when my second baby arrived there was double the mountain under the Christmas tree.
Christmas in Our Home
Most Christmases were built here at my home after our family grew. Then my brother and his expanding family filled our house with activity. A full house, arms rarely empty and someone always rushing around.
When our girls were babies when we felt torn in 4 directions during the holidays. Spread too thin. Driving up and down Highway 401 every December to visit Moms and Dads and grandparents in various cities throughout Ontario. Guelph, Kitchener, Toronto, Waterloo and back to our house in London. There were dozens of snowstorms, an ice storm, a broken down car or two at Christmas on the shoulder of the highway. Ontario is a massive province, with wild winter weather at times, and you can really only appreciate that if you have lived here and travelled some of this crazy province over the years.
Exhausted Trips Back and Forth
I remember episodes of being bone weary and exhausted. It was all too much, the calendar too full, too many things to do and too many people to visit. When Ainsley was small and her special needs were not figured out yet she would holler for the entire trip sometimes. We often pulled over and had to feed her or sing to her, or just adjust her temperature and her seat belt. Her sensory processing disorder issues were becoming very noticeable and they were hard to handle on the lengthy car trips. By the time she was three she undid her own seatbelt and we had to pull over countless times. Eventally I figured out wrapping her blanket around the clasp kept her less able to play with the buckle.
On Arriving Late
There were grandparents that were annoyed because we were late. And there were countless minor emergencies, with toddlers and preschoolers. Ear infections flaring Christmas Eve. Diaper explosions, potty training mishaps, puddles on the floor of the van. Budget challenges too.
Christmas morning magic is tempered by exhaustion when your kids are little and your parent is in the house puttering about, underfoot. You are Santa Claus, and Mom, or Dad, and daughter too, a 40-year-old child, trying to help entertain and build a beautiful memory for everyone. The holidays pass sometimes seemingly slow, until you realize your perspective is misshapen. Blink and it’s October again, as the the year slides fast to a close.
Time Passes Too Fast
One Christmas you look up and the babies are now tweens or teenagers and suddenly there are no more trips up and down the highway and important pieces of your world are gone. Your mother, mother in law and father in law have all passed away. Some precious aunts and uncles vanish too. You would give up a year of your life just to see them standing in your kitchen again. Or to have that feeling of too much as you race through her door and she tsks you for being late, then calls you “Love.”
Missing Vital Pieces
This year our family is missing vital pieces. The too full feeling is gone. I had no idea I’d miss it this much. Are you missing anyone important this Christmas?
Kristen @ My 3 Little Kittens
The present keeps us so very involved in everything that we can’t ever really step back and see how much we have, how much those in our life mean to us …. until our loved ones are gone. You aren’t alone Paula. Finding your first holiday without your mom not as “magical” as others is completely to be expected. No Christmas will ever be the same again, but remember how much you treasure the Christmas memories you have of her and make some fabulous memories for your girls to hold dear to their heart. We never know how long we will be on this Earth. All we can do is love our way through each day and treasure what we have. Your mom is always with you Paula and there is no doubt in my mind that she is often found “checking in” to see that you get it right the first time…*smile Love you!!! *Hugs*
Thanks Kristen. Wise words. I appreciate the support and love from someone who has been there.
Hi Paula (from another Paula!). This was well written, and I hope the writing of it helped you process. My mother in law passed away on 11/16/13 – she was our true matriarch and Christmas was “her thing.” Yes, we are definitely missing someone too. Sending you support from blog-land!
Thanks so much Paula. I am very sorry for your loss as well!
Thank you for this post – you are not alone.
Ronalyn: thank you for your comment too.