I hate that song. I hate it so much that I try to listen to it every year just to see if I can make it through the first damn verse without crying. I never do, and I always seem to be totally depressed afterwards…
For about two minutes.
Then I realize that the whole reason I am the way I am, the way I will never act my age at Christmas, and the way I still never get tired of watching Rudolph, is because of my mom. My mother was so full of the Holiday spirit I thought sometimes she would just about bust from sheer joy; it was a joy that she not only passed on to her children, but I think it was very infectious and everyone who came in contact with her always seemed to have a little more holiday spirit than they did prior to talking to her. From November first, to January second my mom was in full blown holiday mode. Thanksgiving had a fair time in the spotlight, she dared us to play any music before black Friday; I know now that she was showing us it is important to give thanks before we embark on the journey of gift giving and receiving. My mother was the perfect example of what it meant to be in the holiday spirit, and what it means to give and be thankful.
That first Christmas without her was one that I would give anything to forget; the way my dad was trying so hard to make it special even though there was a void there that seemed to swallow us in a dark wave of sorrow, or the way everyone was painstakingly trying not to bring her up…it was terrible and I thought I would never get that spirit back again, that it was gone forever like my mother. Then the second Christmas came, followed by the third and the fourth; slowly but surely, as it always does, time began to ease the pain and fill that seemingly endless void of sorrow. Stubbornly, I held on to my void; I thought that if I did let go I would forget her, I would forget everything that mattered..so I continued to let my wounds fester. I was just angry. I was angry and confused, but most of all there was still that fourteen year old girl inside of me that cried out for someone or something to take the pain away, to just let me see my mom one more goddamn time.
Then one day, I’m not sure when nor what happened…it just clicked. I finally saw that I was being stubborn and I was stuck on pause trying to hit the rewind button. If my mother were here, she would reem me out for being so stubborn…as a matter of fact I can almost hear her doing that (and still can occasionally when I screw up), and know exactly what she would say:
“Lauren Ellen Wilson! Now you know better than that! I taught you better than that, you stop being so hard headed! It’s Christmas, and you know how special this is for me and for you. Don’t make me take you to the bathroom…”
That last phrase was probably the most terrifying phrase my mother could ever utter…
I’m not saying that things are all fine and dandy around the Holidays, that ever present void is still there…but it is not consuming. Its just that tiny little pang of heartache every now and then when I open the box of decorations and see her favourite ornaments or Rudolph comes on and she’s not here to hold me because the stupid Yeti scares me. Or how she encouraged me to believe in Santa Clause until I was almost twelve years old, despite the crap I took from my peers.
The most painful part for me is when everyone goes to bed and the house is dark and quiet, the only noise comes from the owls outside or the quiet murmur of our motion ornaments. It’s in those moments, when I’m lying in my bed and my room has that ethereal red glow from my lights that I am swept back into the past; its like a movie in my head that plays from my earliest Christmas memories, its so real I can even remember how her clothes smelled like fresh baked bread that mingled with her perfume, or how she would help me style my hair and I can feel the gentle strokes of the brush as she ran it through my hair. Its then that I’ll allow myself to grieve, to cry and to allow the longing that I have for her to really show. In those quiet nights, I am at my most vulnerable.
Then the sun rises, and I am greeted by its warmth. It is a new day, one day closer to Christmas; not only that but I am not alone, I have my family (friends are included in that statement), I have a safe place to call home, I am loved, I am a recipient of a bountiful harvest and I am still here. I have no reason to be sad then, it is because of my mother that I realize this, it is because of her that I have an overwhelming love for the holiday season. I feel her presence everywhere, especially around this time of year, it was always there; I just never allowed myself to be open to it until a few years ago.
So to you dear reader I offer this:
Yes the holiday season is doomed to be commercialized. Yes there will always be that one miserable son of a bitch that tries to completely suck every ounce of holiday spirit out of you like a leech. And yes you will probably get a fruitcake, an ugly holiday sweater, have to deal with that one relative that you wish would disappear, and you won’t get what you want.
But, to the commercialization and the Scrooges say “Happy Holidays” anyway, say thank you to the fruitcake and the sweater, welcome your dysfunctional relative with open arms, and realize that there’s always next year.
There are so many wonderful things about the holidays dear reader, but remember that you are wonderful. You are a divine, beautiful being with a soul and a heart; you have the ability to feel complex and beautiful emotions. Somewhere in your life, there is someone that loves you, someone who cares for you. Remember all of these things my friends, I know it sounds really sappy and cliche….but I truly believe all of this.
If it hadn’t been for my mom I wouldn’t have known any of this, and for that I am truly grateful. Its the best gift I could’ve ever received from her.