It’s Christmas time…but it really feels like short days, cold nights and bustling around. It’s Christmas time… there are piles and piles of memories and photos and traditions that remind me of the past, of a much lighter past. It’s Christmas time… the world looks so different than it did last Christmas, and the Christmas before… and the one before.
Growing up Holidays were not only fun and full, but they were reliable and safe. I loved that best. I always knew that the same Advent song would be sung at mass, that Nana would always deliver the soft and personalized towels, that for days before the holidays there would always be potatoes to mash and stale bread to break up at Grandma Connor’s and there would always be a kids table and a grown ups table… there were always multiple relish trays full of pickles. There were so many other ‘always’ in those days. I wished to create a sturdy and safe set of ‘always’ for my girls… but as I have learned nothing has quite gone as planned in this life.
It seems though that this life isn’t so full of ‘always’… not for the lack of trying. Who knows… maybe my girls ‘always’, their reliable and safe, is a series of different and changing holidays and traditions?
These years of missing Madeline, divorce, transitions… mixed with the normal growing up and taking on more responsibility have been really hard. 2019 has been a heavy year, for me, for my girls and for my family. Madeline died in 2012 and I reminded myself and others to enjoy days and celebrate time, because one tragedy, one crisis doesn’t promise that there will be no more in our lifetime. 2019 has been a year of little joy, reminders of what is missing and hurdle after hurdle after hurdle to jump… hurdling with a bum hip and broken spirit are particularly hard. We are here though… right in a cold, dark New York winter. It has only been winter for winter for mere moments, yet feels like ages.
This year is the first year ever that I will experience what so many I have known and supported have felt- Christmas with one of your special family members in the hospital. I am sure at some point in my life an Aunt or Uncle, or grandparent has been in the hospital… but that doesn’t feel the same. First Christmas’ are so special… squeezing your kiddos together for that picture (that no one is smiling in and one child is not looking at the camera while dressed in plaid or polka dots) is a right of passage. All through pregnancy moms look forward to those parts… and it almost makes up for the varicose veins and stretch marks. My sister and brother-in-law found out they were expecting last Christmas week, a blessing after pain. They continued life along with pregnancy, a challenge with two little dinosaurs, I mean kiddos, to chase, feed and raise… and then Benson came early. Soon after his birth he was diagnosed with HLHS, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome… and has undergone surgeries and procedures to create a heart that will work better until the next two surgeries and beyond. He is a fighter. He is here. Benson’s First Christmas will be spent with some amazing nurses and doctors on the PCCC at Upstate Strong Hospital. He will get little visits from his grownups, he will watch his little mobile, he will get mad when the nurses change his leads and bathe him along with mom or dad. My sisters, our kids and my parents will be minutes away chiseling away at Christmas 2019… swimming in a hotel pool, playing dinosaurs with Benson’s brothers and eating some sort of Chinese Food. Benson should be there too… but he is connected to the hospital, he is safest there. I will miss him while chasing his brothers… I will miss putting the fancy Christmas bib on him, watching my dad sneak him whipped cream and watching all his cousins get excited when he opens a baby toy. I wish he got to enter into a steady state of traditions… but alas that isn’t the plan.
I am working hard to create a script for my brain… about building up where ever I am, where ever we are, not focusing on where we should be. I remember Christmas being easy… but I imagine when I truly think about it, that the very first Christmas was full of pain, dirt and hay, creative things to swaddle a fresh baby Jesus in and great fear of the unknown and known. I imagine the first Christmas was chock full of hard stuff mixed with good stuff. I think the act of doing chaos and hard together and creating something a little dirty but ultimately ‘perfect just as it is’ is a good way to direct my brain and this Christmas. I am not one for plans… they never work out anyway, but I am one to make the best out of what is there. I will refocus my brain on the baby in the manger along with the baby in the hospital bed… because I know that the baby in the manger is caring for Sonnie, and us. I will refocus my brain on the positives, even if I have to really dig… I imagine Mary looking around the stable and thinking this is not the way it should be… but He is here, we are here- it is ‘perfect just as it is’ in all the messiness and chao and fear and knowledge. He is here…