I love Christmas. I love the lights and the gift giving and the extensive time spent with family. Although I do most of my shopping in November because I hate the crowds, I do get excited about giving those gifts and the looks on everyone’s faces when they open them. I love snuggling into two pews at Christmas Eve church rubbing us against each other and small children sitting on laps as our immediate family continues to grow every year. I love grabbing a hot chocolate, getting in the car and driving around to look at the twinkling lights various evenings after work when Husband and I feel like it. I love the snow and the parties and the time spent with people who I generally don’t see the rest of the year. I love sitting on the couch in my childhood home with a blanket and a new book that someone got me for Christmas. I love the hugs and the laughs and even the inevitable fights that will happen when you get the strong personalities of my family into one room. And I wouldn’t change it for everything.
There have been times in our life that we were unable to get home for the holidays and it was not apparent to me how much I enjoyed these small life moments until I missed them. Now, I know that the holidays are not as magical or enjoyable for everyone. I know that for some people it is the stress of finding the money to buy those presents or having no family to spend time with. And for the people I work with, it is literally having no home at all. So, I know that I am fortunate. I am fortunate to have a family who loves me, even when they infuriate me. I am fortunate to have the means to buy those presents to share with my family and friends. And I am fortunate enough to have had a whole lifetime of these happy Christmas memories as I grow older and eventually create Christmas memories of my own.
These memories of past Christmases are also the part of Christmas that I love the most. There are numerous traditions and expectations that have changed over the years and although in the moment they were challenging for me, I can now see how they were part of life. As our immediate family grows with the addition of children or partners, I can’t help but notice that it is shrinking as it goes too. The Christmas day dinner filled with my great aunts and uncles are no more. The extensive family get together of a hundred aunts, uncles and cousins is getting smaller and smaller each year. And, hardest of all, the Christmas eve after-church get together has dwindled down to just our family and a few others. Now, I will admit, I enjoy the intimacy of just my immediate family eating sweets, having a few drinks and laughing at the kids’ excitement over the holidays and what presents Santa is going to get them. But I also miss people.
“You’re everywhere except right here and it hurts.”– Rupi Kaur
I miss a lot of people this time of year and as more and more of my loved ones pass away, the list grows longer and longer. All these loved ones are all important to me, but at Christmas in particular, the person I miss most of all is Grammie. For those of you who know me personally, you know how important of a person Grammie was to me. Not only was she a lady that was in most of my family childhood memories but she was the person who fostered and developed my love of books and reading. This time of year, off on school break, I can remember sitting next to Grammie on her old, flowered couch reading a favorite book while she was reading one beside me. The rest of my siblings did not like to read, and for me, this was just ours. Reading books, talking about them or making recommendations to each other was something that only Grammie and I shared and that intimacy is what I miss the most. I still find myself reading a good book, or picking up an old favorite, and wishing Grammie was around to talk to about it.
Grammie was hearing impaired and although she may have been missing out on some of the sounds of the world, she made a point to savor, and share, the impact of writing to me. A religious woman, she would get up every morning to complete her daily reflections and then write in her own personal journal. That daily routine for her went on for years, and many sleepover mornings, she would be sitting writing away while I laid in bed being lazy. The desire, and routine of writing, was the first steps for me to see the impact of putting pen to paper and getting your thoughts down. These could be meaningless thoughts (as most were in my childhood diaries) but also thoughts about life, love and God.
So, how does this relate to Christmas? Well, a few ways. I just miss her at this time of year. For years on end, the tradition would be to go to Grammie’s after church and eat junk, hang out and enjoy quality time. Grammie emphasized the importance of keeping God in the Christmas season and that it was not just about presents and Santa but being thankful, cherishing your loved ones and quality time. And man, oh man did she love that quality time. She loved having us over on Christmas and when she moved out of her tiny senior apartment, you could see the shift when that tradition had to be altered as she aged and moved on.
Grammie has been gone almost seven years now and as I grow and develop and honestly just spend some time reflecting on my life and who I am, Grammie is almost always present. She, along with my mom, has led me to some of my best and worst traits of myself and it is this time of year that I wish she was here. I wish when we are packing up the car, snuggled in for the drive, and ready to get home to see everyone, that she was still one of our first stops. Or that the new book I got for Christmas was shared with her and we could both be reading side by side as the snow falls outside. But life doesn’t work that way.
So, instead of feeling sad that Grammie, along with others, are no longer here, it is being present for the people who still are. It is enjoying the small moments, new traditions and old memories that make Christmas what it is. I miss people this time of year. Period. And yet, I also see people this time of year. People I love. People I rarely see. And people who are still here. That’s the point. They are still here, so enjoy it while we can.