One of my Christmas traditions is to start nagging mom as soon as the presents are wrapped for her to let us open them. Sometimes she has caved and opened presents on Christmas Eve, or let me have one or two early. Typically this nagging starts the weekend after Thanksgiving, but we’re a bit behind this year and just got the tree decorated and finished wrapping gifts today.
There is basically nothing traditional about this Christmas. We usually have a big tree, but it’s in a box buried in a corner behind other boxes, and we were too unmotivated to dig it out. Then we only pulled a few of the decoration boxes out of storage and used whatever was on top. Mom asked if there were any particular ornaments I wanted on the tree, and I said I didn’t care what was on there. Really, I don’t. I don’t have that sense of sentimentality and traditionalism that she does.
However, I have cried about Christmas twice today. One of the reasons was trivial: our stockings and my DecemBear Advent calendar are in a box we can’t seem to find right now. I told mom it didn’t matter. We’re over a week late starting the calendar, and we can throw the stocking stuffers under the tree with everything else. It was a lie, it does matter. Not enough that I’m going to hunt for the box, but I’ve had those since preschool and used them every single year, even the year of the most depressing Christmas ever.
Remembering that Christmas was the other reason I cried. My grandma was crazy about Christmas. She decorated the whole house. She collected Santa and snowman figurines. She had traditions that were always honored. For Christmas 2006, we didn’t have decorations. She had become so ill with lung cancer that she could no longer walk. Mom had some kind of lingering infection, and I was sinking into a deep depression. We had no tree, not even a tiny one.
On Christmas morning I snuck into the garage where the decorations were stored, and came back to the living room where both grandma and mom were sleeping on the couches. I came back with a strand of lights and a garland wrapped around my body, stood over the tiny stack of presents on the table, and announced that I was the Christmas tree.
It wasn’t good enough. I knew going into that holiday season that it would be grandma’s last, and I couldn’t pull myself together enough to put up the decorations for her and give her a real Christmas celebration. I didn’t even have a gift for her…I gave her a swatch of the yarn I planned to use for her gift, and it never got finished before she died in February. I ruined my grandma’s last Christmas, and now I can’t celebrate the holiday without being reminded of how disappointed she must have been.