Monday, December 18, 2006

Ghosts of Christmas past

Ok, I need to do this for myself. The holidays have this REALLY odd place in my life anymore. Without Erin, it's been a chore to put together anything that resembles joy and fa la la-ing. But I realized that this has been growth and process. So, if you feel so inclined, follow along. But this is for me really. But also know that the process isn't a happy one as much as it's pretty sad actually. You see, that's where we seem to be stuck at. Sad. profoundly sad sometimes. No matter how angry I am the rest of the year... sadness is really what hits me this time of year.

So if you are very HO HO HO-ing.... I'd avoid this blog series until after New Year's. Cause I doubt that fa la la and ho ho ho will be included. I'd rather see y'all be happy and celebratory. But for me... I'm putting these all in one place. So they don't disappear from "other" places.

In 2001 I was sure that I wouldn't need to worry about not dealing with the holidays. I was still holding out that we'd wake up Christmas morning and find Erin herself sitting under the tree. I was CONVINCED that she was going to just pop right in while we were opening presents and the silly girl was going to say this was all a ruse to get that stereo system I kept telling her she couldn't have. So we made a couple dozen cookies, wrapped presents, fully decorated the house and the tree, cooked the dinner and all that tradition and homey hearthy stuff. Christmas morning came and went and Erin didn't come through the door. New Year's eve, surely she'd show. Obviously, she wasn't. And thus ended the last Christmas that.. well... I don't know what it ended. But it began something....

So in 2002 on Christmas Eve I wrote her a letter.

Erin,Today is 1 year and 204 days since I saw you last. Tomorrow will be our 2nd Christmas without you. Every day is hard but the holidays, Christmas and New Year's especially, seem to be the hardest. Got out the stockings this morning. Amber and I got into an argument because I won't let her use yours. And somehow it is the only one that seems to have survived the move. Almost as if your Pooh was supposed to be our only stocking this year.

I am finding it even harder to do Christmas without you this year. Not that last year was easy. Last year we were just convinced that if you had run away that the holidays would definitely bring you home. I think that your persistence to uphold traditions is making memories harder to get away from this year. The joy in your eyes from the first Christmas light display of the holiday season, the care you always took to look your "very best" on Christmas Eve at Grandma & Grandpa's house. Watching you take what seemed like forever to pick out Christmas presents for your brothers and sister. Laughing while we tried to figure out "exactly what we messed up" on that batch of cookies. The look on your face when you and your brother dragged home the "bargain" Christmas tree from the lot up the street, because you said the house didn't "smell right with a fake one". Calling the lady at the flower shop to find out exactly what kind of a tale you guys told her to get a live 6 ft tree for $3 anyway. The joy in my heart when she told me what wonderful children I had. Finding out that you actually gave her $15 but you had bought a tree for the neighbors who didn't have one at all. Knowing that their 50% off trees were $12. Imagine the look on that Mom's face when her kids dragged the tree in their front door! Watching that really bad remake of the Rudolph cartoon "just one more time." Knowing that you would be the last one to sleep on Christmas Eve. Trying to convince you that if you don't go to sleep soon, Santa will never skip our house all together. The "But, Mom…" when I told you that 5 am is too early to wake up your brothers, even if there are presents to open. Telling you that you could have the contents of your stocking but only if you took it back to bed with you. Doing this all over again at 6 am. Taking you for a walk at 6:30 so that we could look for "reindeer tracks". (And trying to buy another hour for your brothers.) Following a trail of pine needles in the snow up to First Avenue. Gee, wonder how those got there.After Christmas Bargains. "Cause we can use it next year!" Even though I know we'll look at it next year and try and figure out what we saw in it in the first place.

Planning "Erin's Huge New Year's Eve". No, you can't have a 50-person guest list. No, the glitter confetti is out of the question. There is still glitter in the rug from 4 years ago. Going to 4 stores before we found exactly the right brand of sparkling grape juice. Going over cookbooks trying to find that "one recipe for those Chinese looking things you eat with your fingers." Calling Grandma because we never can find the recipe. And because she knew what you were talking about right away!

I love you Erin. I want you to know that you are in my heart every day. Wherever you are, I send you my love. May the same angels that rejoiced at Jesus' manger birth, protect you today. Praise God for giving us His Son. Praise God for giving me you.Peace, Love, and Angels,

Christmas 2003 I tried to hibernate.

I posted a prayer request on another site:

"I am not sure if I can face the holidays again. I thought I had prepared myself enough this year. I thought I was going to be OK. Now I am not sure.I can't bring myself to go get a single Christmas present since the day after Thanksgiving when my friend forced me out at 5 am. I haven't baked a single cookie. I haven't unpacked even one decoration. I know if I don't get a tree soon we'll end up with another foot tall potted one from Target because that is all that will be left. At least that is what we had last year as a last ditch effort to give my kids something.

Can I just hibernate and wake up sometime in January?

I know that I am just whining and that you guys get the brunt of everything when I get this way. I am sorry. You may be imaginary friends, but you are about the only ones that I can tell all of this to anymore. Heaven forbid anyone in my "real life" would ever stumble across all of these posts over the last few years. They would probably have me committed.Just pray for us OK? I know you already do quite often. But I know that without a whole army of angels that I am going to fall apart. Please send angels.

Thanks. Carolyn

Note to self: delete this later when you feel better."

Well, I obviously never felt better because I never deleted it. Christmas 2003 came and went.

Christmas 2004

And 2004 brought the holiday glow:
That holiday glow? It's really me setting fire to the whole dang lot of it
--> --> --> -->
Go Beyond Scrooge and his "Bah humbug"Turn right past the Grinch and the stolen WhoBeastGo about another 1/2 mile down the road and turn rightAt the road kill left behind from the Grandma and the Reindeer collisionSee that little glow off in the distance...That holiday glow? It's really me setting fire to the whole dang lot of it.

I have had enough.What started out as pure avoidance and WAY too many extra hours at work last week (and last weekend and so far this week) has now turned into this really awful monster that is teetering somewhere animosity and flat out anger.

I don't want to ho ho ho.

If one more poor unsuspecting soul asks me if I'm "ready for Christmas?" I'll probably be taken away in handcuffs. "Plans for the holidays?" Yep. I plan to get through them in one piece without choking the bejeezes out of you for asking, being committed to the locked ward at the local psych hospital, and/or being referred to as "that crazy woman who ran down the street screaming that one year. Do you remember her? she was wearing shorts, a sweatshirt, and those funny red slippers and then wrapped herself in icicle lights and kept yelling something about it snowing in her house and a Winnie the Pooh stocking."Urban legend? No. Tormented soul.

Decorations? I have a TON!! Two totes worth are in my living room between the couch and bookcase. Don't think they've moved more than vacuuming required since I packed them up 2 years ago. There is at least 2 or 3 more totes in the closet. 95% sure that they are. I know I moved them here with us in 2002. A few of them saw the daylight that year. I distinctly remember the "only stocking we could find" incident. I also distinctly remember packing most of them right back up.Baking? I bought Nestle chips, real sugar, and all purpose flour. I think I even got evaporated milk for the preverbial fudge making. What do you mean the cookies won't make themselves? I spent nearly $50 at the store. For that they better darn well jump in that oven on their own. Nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cinnamon are the makings of magic pixie dust aren't they?

Presents. Probably shouldn't delve into that arena. Let's just suffice it to say that if it didn't come from the craft show, the benefit auction,, or just happens to be in my closet - they aren't gonna get it. Cause there is only so much WalMart this woman can take at this time of year. I mean... HELLO people, did the elves take away the part of your brain that manuevers in parking lots and steers shopping carts? And yes, that is my cart sitting there by the door. I tried. I can't do it. I'm going home.The holidays aren't about stuff. ummm. yeah. I know that.

Traditions? Can't bear to face them. Family? Don't need the drama on hubby's side. And my side, well chaos seems pretty happy there too. Create new Family Traditions. ummm. yeah. I think we have done that. The tradition of avoidance and lighting fires to the whole lot of it.

My poor Amber. She's got it the worst. What should be joyful memories of holidays growing up are now overshadowed by this cynical old woman that used to be her cookie baking, present wrapping, carol singing, house decorating, holiday toy driving, ho ho hoing Mom. Now I remember why we shipped her off to friend's and distant family for Christmas break. Should probably figure out how to do that for her again this year.

And no, I do not want anyone to feel sorry for me. Y'all know me better than that. And if you do, then just remember....I'm not the only one that feels this way.I'm just more vocal. (or well written)

So when you get your Holiday card sometime around Valentine's day, consider yourself lucky. I addressed them two years ago. Be glad they got mailed at all.

Christmas 2005 was a definate "deck this" year and I just stayed perpetually angry. It seemed easier somehow. Didn't do any good. Christmas still came and went. Christmas day itself wasn't so bad. We ended up spending it in Cedar Rapids for the first time since 2001. Still not sure if that was good or bad, but we made a point to do NOTHING the way we ever had or even close to "tradition". That proved to be a good decision.

Christmas 2006

Now if I could just remember what we did that DID work.

Because right now, I can't remember exactly. In fact, I dont remember much. I think I need an spiked egg-nog. Skip the egg-nog part.I'll have to update you on the rest tomorrow.