Wednesday, November 30, 2011

That's a loaded question...

Mass e-mail from co-worker (edited to remove identifying information):

Hi Everyone!

For our Holiday Party, I am collecting your best/worst/funniest holiday memory.

The Social Committee will be using this information for a fun activity we have planned for the party.

Please try to keep it concise (a line or two at most) and email it to me privately.

If you could send it to me by EOD Friday, that would be great!

*** *** ***

OK, I'm assuming by "worst holiday memory," they are looking for worst/we-can-laugh-about-it-now stories about the time Santa left a lump of coal in your stocking, or you had one too many glasses of eggnog & woke up with a hangover -- that sort of thing.

Because, honestly -- do they REALLY want to hear people's WORST holiday memories?

I mean, let's face it, I love Christmas -- but most people's Christmases, even the best ones, rarely if ever measure up to the Norman Rockwell ideal. And I'm pretty damned sure nobody wants to hear about MY worst Christmas.

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to be expecting a baby in November -- to have your mother exclaim, when she learns the due date, "A baby for Christmas!!" -- to dream about bringing that baby home for the holidays to her adoring grandparents & great-grandparents -- only to have that dream totally, utterly shattered when the baby is stillborn in August?

Do they REALLY want to know why you can't bear to hear or sing "Away in a Manger" anymore? (especially when, one year, the choir changed the lyrics to include the line, "A baby for Christmas...")

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to start crying every year while you're watching the Santa Claus Parade, because it brings back memories of your pregnancy & your secret wish that you'd be able to watch the parade from the windows of the hospital (on the parade route) with your newborn daughter in your arms?

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to go to the mall and be confronted with oodles of toys, impossibly precious holiday clothes at Baby Gap & Gymboree, and a massive lineup of adorably dressed babies & toddlers waiting to see Santa Claus, when you'd give anything to be doing the same thing with your daughter?

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to lose your grandfather just a few weeks after losing your baby -- the grandfather you adored, secretly thought was Santa Claus, and spent every single Christmas of your life with?

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to go to your Christmas party -- the one place where you think you're safe & looking forward to kicking back with your co-workers -- only to have the colleague who was pregnant at the same time as you were & due just a few weeks before arrive? WITH her baby girl in tow?? And then be told that not just one, not just two, but THREE other coworkers just announced their pregnancies? (See my post about the Worst. Christmas Party. Ever.) And then leave the party early & spend the next two hours sitting numbly in the train station, waiting for your husband (who is at his party -- this being pre-cellphone days), & reading the same page of your People magazine over & over again, because you keep replaying the night's events over & over again in your head and just can't focus?

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to decorate the Christmas tree in silence & without smiles or laughter, that first Christmas?

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like, searching for the perfect ornament for the tree to memorialize your stillborn daughter?

Do they REALLY want to know why your entire Christmas tree is now covered in teddy bear angels & Classic Pooh Christmas ornaments that you've accumulated over the past 13 years (hint: the baby's nursery was to have had a Classic Pooh theme)?

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to read the cards that your mother received from her friends (who obviously haven't heard the news), saying things like, "Congratulations! You're going to love being a grandma!" and "Being a grandmother is the best!" and "How's that grandbaby?"

Do they REALLY want to know what it's like to hear everyone around you mouthing platitudes like, "Christmas is for kids"?

Do they REALLY want to know about how awful it felt to watch your father's face crumble as he started to take the traditional "family around the dinner table" photo, set down the camera & retreated downstairs so that we couldn't see him cry?

I didn't think so.

(For the record, I sent the story about my parents giving me the stereo I had been bugging them about for years -- complete with turntable & cassette deck. It was 1981 (30 years ago, eeek), I was in third-year university and I honestly didn't expect they would ever buy me such an expensive gift (which seems so Little House on the Prairie-ish these days, when I hear about parents buying their kids iPods and iPhones and game systems and television sets and Ugg boots, & taking them to Disney World) -- you can see in the pictures that I'd been crying from shock! They hid it under a roll of carpet in the shower stall of an unfinished basement bathroom in their new house, and sent me on a treasure hunt to find it. I still have it, in my basement, along with all my vinyl albums.)


  1. I don't understand why they would even ask for worst one... even if they were looking for "awful at the time, can laugh about later" I would think that'd fall under "funniest." Ugh. I don't think they'd want to hear about everyone's worst holiday memory either. But I am glad you shared yours here, and I'm sorry that the email served as another reminder of the pain (*hugs*) The holidays can be wonderful, and they can also be the hardest time of the year- all at the same time even. Thinking of you.

  2. Sending you love, I know how these things stab at our broken hearts.

  3. It is a loaded question. I'm so sorry it brought back such painful memories - not that they weren't there anyway.

    I could add a few to the list (having suffered both my ectopic pregnancies in December), and certainly related to the "christmas is for kids" and "finding an ornament" points.

    Wow - Christmas 1981 ... I remember it!

  4. Oh, I remember when my "worst" holiday memories were running out of gas in the middle of Kansas and later finding cat barf under the tree... The soul-shattering grief of last Christmas is an entirely different category. And certainly not one I'm interesting in discussing at holiday work parties! I'm sorry this season can be so difficult, for all of us.

  5. Your post put a huge lump in my throat. Hugs.

  6. You're right - nobody really wants to hear about truly painful Christmas memories. Thinking of you during this time of year.

  7. Wow, I can't believe they would ask for a worst holiday memory! Obviously, they haven't had any themselves or they would know not to ask that.

    When I was a child I remember hearing adults say that they dreaded the holidays and I just couldn't understand why. What is so bad about getting presents I though. Now I totally get it. And it's not just the ALI community that this happens to (the dreading of holidays) so it really baffles me as to why this person would ask that.

    I'm sorry.

  8. Brandy, you hit the nail on the head. More & more of my coworkers (including the one who sent the e-mail) are young (in their 20s & early 30s), unmarried or newly married without kids, some of them still live at home with their parents, or close to them. It's the sort of question that only someone who's young & naive and hasn't experienced a lot of tragedy or loss or sadness in their life would ask. It's kind of touching, in a way -- but I'm afraid some of them are in for rude awakenings. :(

  9. I read this just minutes after it was posted and didn't know what to say exactly - what a lot you have survived - when you list it out like that it is really striking.

    I agree that when your life has not had much real sadness and tragedy, you wouldn't think about the impact of this question. The questioner May look at it differently after another decade or so of life experience ... I think few of us get through life without scars, but some have much more suffering to go through than others.


  10. I'm so very sorry you lost your baby. My heart aches for you. I can only imagine how hard the holidays can be sometimes. I don't understand why they'd even add "worst" to the list...why not just stick to happiest and funniest?

    I lost my first pregnancy (early miscarriage, not still birth) on Halloween 2010. I thought my heart might shrivel up and die every time a tiny one came to my door for trick-or-treating this year. Not my favourite day of the year. I'm already a bit scared of all the pregnant cousins at Christmas, and people saying "So when are you two having kids?".

  11. They really don't. And I think for the most part, they really have no idea. Or why ask?

    Ah youth...

    There are things I love about the holidays despite myself - despite how beyond awful that first one was. That one where we got ridiculous last minute presents from my parents - and we knew it was because all of the ones for the girls had to be quickly returned.

    Dear loribeth, your post reached out to me. And I think it should be required HR reading. Seriously. Sending you strength and love this and every holiday.

  12. Oh, dear. I wonder if they wanted to take back those words after they sent them out. I like the memory you sent them, and as for the ones you didn't - oh, so much love to you.

  13. Yeah, I'm guessing they don't want to hear about that Christmas memory. Oh, to be so innocent as to ask that question, eh? I didn't think there were still people out there who insist that Christmas is just chock block full of good cheer and glad tidings for EVERYONE.

  14. Just want to say you are not alone in your Christmas memories.