Wednesday, December 28, 2016

"It came, just the same"

Sorry that I missed #MicroblogMondays this week. We were coming to the end of a 10-day Christmas visit to my parents (got home yesterday). I brought my laptop with me, and there are several other computers in the house that I can use -- but my mother has started insisting that all computers must stay in the basement family room (and off of her dining room table). Invariably, someone is napping in the basement family room & not to be disturbed, which puts a bit of a cramp on computer time. (I did have my cellphone, but I find it impossible to type more than a few sentences on there -- it just takes way too long.)

It was a weird sort of Christmas. For one thing, my mother was sick with a really nasty cold/sinus infection the entire time we were there. (Just like the Queen -- which I think sort of tickled her.)  As a result, this year, there was only one Christmas tree (vs the usual two, one upstairs in the living room and one downstairs), one kind of shortbread cookie instead of two, no perogies on Christmas Eve or cabbage rolls on Christmas Day (although we had both before, as well as with the leftovers on Boxing Day), and a lot fewer presents under the tree and in my Christmas stocking, which she usually helps Santa to stuff.  Which didn't bother me that much (I have more fun shopping & giving than receiving anyway) -- except that it was an unwelcome reminder (not for the first time) that my parents are getting older (and so am I). :(  

My dad picked up the slack on the cooking front (he usually cooks most of the time anyway -- and is a really GOOD cook himself, lol), and my sister & I pitched in on the dishes, cleaning, decorating, grocery shopping, errand running and gift wrapping front, as well as making Mom cups of tea & heating her magic bag in the microwave and putting eyedrops in her eyes (poor Mom also developed a bacterial infection in not just one but both eyes at the same time she had the cold). One night we were sitting on the floor of the basement family room, wrapping presents. "Why didn't you get out the card table to sit at??" my mother asked us. Answer: we couldn't find it in the crawl space. My sister (54 to my 55/almost 56) quipped: "Sitting on the floor -- not a problem. Getting up? That's another story." (She was right!!)

Another reason it was a weird sort of Christmas is that we didn't see as much of Parents' Neighbours' Daughter & the Little Princesses as we normally do, or would. (And perhaps it's just as well, with my mother being sick.)  The main reason being school ended late this year, on Dec. 22nd (PND is a teacher), and we arrived almost a full week before that. I hadn't even thought about school schedules when I booked our flights and organized our visit.  I suppose it just goes to show you how completely out of touch I am with such matters, as a childless 50-something.  :p By the time PND picked up the girls from daycare, got them home and had dinner, there wasn't a lot of time (or energy) for her to schlep them over to my parents' house for even a brief visit (which would inevitably wind them all up) before their 7:30 p.m. usual bedtime. Still, she did bring them over (one or the other or both) almost every other day on the weekends and once her Christmas break began, and they spent Christmas Eve with us, as well as time to open the stockings Santa had left for them with us on Christmas Day afternoon.

(My mother wanted to postpone stockings to Boxing Day -- she thought it was all just "too much" when she wasn't feeling well.  My sister, PND & (especially) I overruled her. She was NOT happy -- but my sister thought it would be better to get it all over with so we could have Boxing Day to be lazy and rest up before we had to head back home (and, on her part, to work). As for me, I'm a traditionalist -- stockings are meant to be opened on Christmas Day -- particularly when there are little kids around. I guess there is so little about my adult life that is traditional -- no children, no grandchildren -- that I cling desperately to my family of origin and the traditions we have shared together for so long.) 

The silver lining, for me, was my sister -- doing things with her, commiserating with her, talking with her, cracking up over her sarcastic sense of humour. (I may be "the writer" in the family, but when we were kids, all my best story ideas and lines came from her.)  I've often said, here & elsewhere, that we don't have a gushy "Hallmark" sort of relationship. She generally prefers to hole up in a corner of the basement family room with her laptop or e-reader than to sit around the table & visit -- but she shocked me by cheerfully (well, as cheerfully as she does cheerful, lol) pitching in and getting whatever jobs needed to be done, done. She played cards with us, twice, without having to be dragged to the table, and even helped me decorate the Christmas tree. She refused to touch the tinsel -- has long said it makes her hands itch -- but she helped me string up the lights and put on the ornaments. I cannot remember the last time she went anywhere near the Christmas tree, and I was frantically motioning to dh to get the camera & take photos so I'd have proof of this historic event. ;)  Clearly, she is getting soft in her old age, lol.  (She did stick her tongue out her tongue at dh when she saw the camera -- some things don't change, lol.) 

My mother was moaning on Christmas Eve about all the things that didn't get done this year. I was sad about those things too, and I hope we'll get to do them, or at least some of them, again next year. But when I looked around the dinner table at the faces I love and the good food that was there (despite a few missing items, believe me, we did NOT starve!!), I was reminded of "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" and how Christmas "came just the same," despite the Grinch's best efforts to stop it -- and how Christmas means a little bit more than presents and tinsel and sweets. I thought about that first awful Christmas (1998), after the loss of our Katie AND my beloved grandfather, when everything was different and yet still comfortingly familiar -- and somehow, it was still Christmas. And again the next year after that, when my grandmother was gone too, and our dinner table was shrinking instead of expanding, as we had hoped and expected it would.  :( 

I think ahead to the inevitable day when my parents will no longer be here, and worry about what we will we do at Christmastime then?  Will I still go west to be with my sister, or will she come here? Will BIL & the nephews take pity on us and take us in, even though we have never spent Christmas with them?  It all seems too overwhelmingly sad to think about -- and so I don't. (I have a childless friend who was recently widowed and faced with the same sorts of questions.  She wound up taking her likewise childless single sister to New York City over the holidays to see the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. I haven't heard yet how that went.) 

I take comfort in the fact that I've survived other times when Christmas hasn't been so very merry -- but it always comes, and we can always find a way to make it special, if we try. Maybe it won't be special in exactly the same way as before -- but it can still be special in its own way and on its own merits, nevertheless. 

How was your Christmas?


  1. I really enjoyed reading your post.Even without children around,your Christmas sounds wonderful.You are blessed to still have both your parents.

    I am 33 and my mom is 74, my dad passed away 9 years ago (right before Christmas).My 2 pregnancies (that both ended in miscarriage) also started right before Christmas, so it is a very emotional and oftentimes sad time of year.

    But this year my husband and I had my mom, sister, brother-in-law and nephew over, along with all our dogs, and had a really great day.No sadness.

    I have 2 more siblings, each with children, so hopefully if I am ever in the situation where I am widowed,I could choose to spend the holiday with either of them, or a bit more likely, on my own, and not have it destroy me, emotionally.

    May the year to come be a wonderful one!xo

  2. Your last paragraph sums up my entire philosophy around Christmas. I've been lucky perhaps that over the last 10-20 years, I've been able to establish some of my own traditions. I've taken over and cooked the Christmas dinner from my mother when she and my father were still alive, as she never liked doing it, and got a bit stressed about it. I've regularly hosted Christmas dinners here at home too, whether just with my in-laws or with extended family who have travelled back to NZ. (We have always split our Christmases - one year with my family in the south, the next year with my in-laws here, as it only seemed fair, especially as my in-laws only have us in the country.)

    When my in-laws go, we will have to make definite decisions about Christmas. Whilst we'll still regularly travel south to be with my elder sister and my niece and great-niece every few years, we won't have anyone here. Will we invite my sister and W and Charlie, or will we travel for Christmas? I think I'd be a bit sad having a Christmas dinner on our own here, but in a cottage at the beach it would be quite a different matter. And international travel is always fun at Christmas (or any time). And I think of my friend and her mum who this year made the decision to drive north on Christmas Day, as her kids were with their dad. So I know there'll often be other people who are on their own, and Christmas together could be fun. (When we lived in Bangkok, we got together with friends for Christmas Day). Just different. As you said.

    Our Christmas was a bit weird too this year. We were invited to join one of my husband's cousins, who had her elderly mother, and her two aunts (one of whom is my MIL) and their husbands. We kind of had to go, as someone had to drive MIL and FIL! So it was pleasant enough, but we did enjoy getting home in the late afternoon and spending the evening alone. We had a total of one Christmas gift under the tree. Chocolates, from the neighbours. Isn't that a bit sad? But you know, in most ways it wasn't, because we didn't really care.

    Oops. Sorry, I've written a novel!

  3. Anytime I comment,it always ends up being a novel,lol.

    Since we don't have cold weather during Christmas time (we live in South Africa), our traditions are all just a bit different. We do a lot of stuff outside, since it's so hot. So this year we spent the whole day bbq-ing,swimming and just sitting outside having drinks.

    I always get so jealous of the 'traditional' white Christmas shown in movies and tv shows.

  4. Hello to all,
    Found this site last evening.
    So glad to be here!
    This year has been a turning point.
    I am60 and just recieved a clean bill of health.
    For 12 years I was hoping to die. So now, I must plan to live.

    My journey started in 1987 with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy that nearly took my life.
    Because I was an RN on duty, I recieved swift attention and treatment.
    Afterwards, I was offered and accepted two cycles of infertility treatment.
    Although I "failed" , 2 mos after completion, I once again had a tubal pregnancy which resulted in a controlled surgery.
    After that, I entered an IVF program. Once again, I "failed".
    From 1987-1993 I was in some stage of "pregnancy".
    In the end, no child.
    Through the following 6 yrs. I floated,disconnected with no support.
    My husband was grieving independantly.
    By 2000,with the help of prescription drugs, I left my husband, home, job, friends and moved 1000 miles away from"it".
    So, finding this site, it, I believe, is God given.
    No one can understand how devistating our situation can be/is except others who have been through it.
    Today, I live in my own home which always needs immediate repair, retired on a disability pension and have no family and a few causual friends.
    I appear to the world as "together" and living a life of"comfort" as I never show what is really going on.
    The constant loneliness, loving the husband I divorced, etc.
    However, life/attitude/this site, all seem to be helping me move forward.
    I live in Canada, and this all happened while living in Ontario, so it was nice to see a fellow canuck!
    Don't know how to post, but my name is Patricia.

    The biggest thing for me, is understanding the theory of "Let go and let God"
    I am not a religious person but I find myself, literally, spontaniously, getting down on my knees in gratefulness that I am "still standing". Going through this "someone" had to have been with me.
    I wish you all a peaceful, successful year to come.
    Most sincerely,

  5. Things do change as the parents age or die. Since my dad died, Christmas has changed. I wonder too what Christmas will be without my mom. Will my sister still come from NC, will my nephew still come from NYC or spend it in the future with his some day wife? I went early to help my mom. She does dinner on Christmas eve. I put the leaf in the table, ran the steps for the extra chairs, did some of the cooking and lots of clean up. This Christmas it was just my husband and I at home for Christmas dinner. That was a first. Always had my parents in the past. Without kids, what will Christmas be in the future when the parents are gone? I guess lonely.

  6. We usually alternate with each side of the family each year. This year was hub’s side; a few were missing so there was only 36 people, a traditional Christmas dinner, a 32C day, each family brings a few dishes to cover the courses; this year the 23yr old nephew dressed up as Santa for the youngsters, complete with pillow stuffing, sunglasses and thongs (flip flops).
    I also had my first 28 day cycle of the year start the day before, so I was feeling miffed and peeved rather than emotional, which certainly helped for Christmas day. I recover from miffed a lot more quickly than I do emotional.

    The later afternoon then sees us head over to my family for a few hours of quieter time. I do start to think what will happen when the numbers start to dwindle even more and where we two will be on these occasions as well.

    I so agree with your sister – getting onto the floor is easy, getting up, another matter entirely and not very graceful either!

  7. I stumbled on this old post while doing a search... interesting to read now, after three years of pandemic, including one Christmas where I didn't get home at all...!!

    1. I commented on this post 6 years ago,and unfortunately since then my husband and I have gotten divorced.

      I've recently moved in with my sister and her family,which includes 2 great nephews (born in 2019 and 2021), with another great nephew or niece due in February.We also have lots of dogs and cats,so I am never lonely at all :)

    2. I'm sorry your marriage didn't survive, Ani, but I'm glad that living with family is working out for you! (By the way, I also have another great-nephew or a great-niece on the way for February! :) ) Thanks for commenting again!