I thought the blues would pass with November, the lights and cheer of December worming their way into my heart. I drove home from Thanksgiving buoyed by family and love and then almost instantly found myself struggling all over again.
December was never going to be a cakewalk this year, but I find myself driving home in tears, thinking about Dad, about tradition, about what it used to be like to pick up the phone and call him. And work is busy and stressful and I think everyone feels more or less the same about December and there’s really not a whole lot of goodwill toward man floating around.
I read a post from a sweetly earnest girl saying “Christmas is what you make it!” which — well, frankly, frankly, UGH. I see those words covered in glitter and lights and hallmark music playing and maybe a lifetime movie through every letter and I get it, I appreciate the sentiment, but ugh. This year Christmas ain’t going to be much. But I don’t really want to give in to that, I want to remember the joy. How do I remember the joy.
On Thanksgiving, my aunt gave me my great-aunt Mary’s christmas tree. Everyone in the family had one, although I think the one we had on Adams Street was green with multicolored lights. I like this one, which speaks so clearly to Aunt Mary: feminine and nostalgic and slightly fussy.
It took a week to unbox it, set it up, and when I did I took a quick picture. “Need all the good memories,” I wrote on instagram. And I do. I need to draw the past around me like a blanket, pick and polish the gems of the present. That little Christmas tree in its 70s glory suits my kitschy little cabin, and it reminded me of gentle Aunt Mary
Growing up, we had peonies in the back garden. They were Mom’s specialty (I don’t know what her favorite flower was, really: the sweet smelling wild colored roses, or the irises, or the zinnias that grew waist high against the house?). They bloomed for her birthday every year, and she’d bring them into the house where we’d inevitably find ants eating away at the sugar coating, letting them unfurl.
This fellow and his enormous big nose. There was a moment in August I thought he’d be gone sooner than I was ready for, gone and gone and I wasn’t ready for that. And then he turned it around, and he’s getting old and I may not have him for much longer but he’s here with me this Christmas, all huge eyes and nose where it shouldn’t be and leaning against me for comfort, for pets, and for the occasional kiss when my face gets too close
This little clown here lived on Depot St at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Grandpa had a whole collection of toys, mostly windup. The little godzilla that breathed fire, the eyes on feet, flipping their eyeglasses up and down, the king kong who climbed up and down an empire state building, the little toy plane made out of pressed tin. We used to line them up on parades, and the rest of the time they’d sit on a high shelf, this unassuming collection. I don’t particularly like clowns, but I loved this guy, spinning him endlessly on his bar. His outfit has been darned, his hat superglued on, and still he spins.
A letter from a friend came in the mail last week and I opened it immediately and then savored the reading of it hours later, a treat at the end of a tedious day. Words on paper, a card, a person out there thinking of me, sharing with me. A friend who treasures the same things I do, values the time spent writing, caring.
Grandma’s necklace. She didn’t wear it all the time, but I remember it over many a sensible sweater. Mom gave it to her, a gift from Kuwait. And when Grandma died, it was the only thing I wanted to remember her by. Dad made me promise: never take it off. Wear it every day. And I do. When I’m stressed or sad I find myself fishing it out of my shirt, holding it, not really thinking of them but maybe, somehow, thinking of them.
My little cabin in the morning, light beams streaming through the window. This place is mine, a space that is only mine, a place I can be alone. I treasure those plays of light through the window, against the wall, on the pages of my book. I treasure every quiet minute there.
Seven days, and I don’t really think I felt that much better at the end but you know, I do now, I do for having written it out. Seven days in a long December, at the start of a long winter, and there it is, a hint of the joy of the past and maybe a promise that there are still joys to come.