I hate goodbyes.
And I’ve endured two over the past ten days. Both of which created feelings that lingered for far longer than I would have liked.
I cherished this past Christmas.
But it wasn’t because of the presents piled up under the tree.
Because there weren’t any.
It wasn’t because we traveled to a magical destination.
Because we didn’t.
It wasn’t because I was completely organized.
Because I most certainly was not.
The Christmas letter was never written.
The cookies were not made.
Thoughtful gifts were not purchased.
It wasn’t because we held true to long standing traditions.
Because a move to assisted living for my in-laws created a change in location and routine. The traditional Christmas Eve dinner followed by a drawn out distribution of gifts before heading off to church was replaced by a noon gathering with sandwiches and sides and plates of cookies and candies, and a hurried gift exchange.
Ornaments that had always been ‘hidden’ on the tree for the grandkids to find were left in their boxes under a miniature tree standing on an end table.
But yet, I am so grateful.
Two of my children now live on the east coast, so I am becoming more and more aware of what’s important to me.
I am finally understanding what the Christmas cards and Christmas songs have long been saying.
I truly treasure time spent together as a family.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that everything was perfect, or that I didn’t experience feelings of guilt. Because it wasn’t and because I did.
The lack of presents under the tree bothered me. A lot. I had a hard time accepting that what my kids really wanted were unwrappable gifts like plane tickets and money towards a new computer. I fought the urge to buy gifts just for the sake of having gifts to open on Christmas morning. Practicality won out. Even stocking stuffers included items like books and socks and underwear and running gloves.
I survived the guilt of not writing a Christmas letter. Every time I read letters and cards sent to me, I felt like I was somehow shirking my duties. But I didn’t want to just go through the motions. If I was going to send a Christmas greeting to others, I wanted, needed, for it to be meaningful. And to be done well. The truth is, I simply ran out of time, and once my older two were home, it no longer seemed as important to me as being present with my family.
And guess what? Despite the fact I didn’t go crazy in the kitchen, nobody starved. There were plenty of goodies around the house. I am a teacher and this year’s crop of students made some very fancy cookies and candies. Kinda silly to make more.
The change in Christmas Eve tradition provided a new opportunity, and perhaps the start to of a new tradition. My husband, my youngest and I were able to help at church Christmas Eve. And while we were volunteering, the older two stayed home and prepared dinner. It was wonderful arriving home to a meal already on the table.
And later that night, we traveled back to church to hear a touching message and get all the feels singing “Silent Night” while holding candles.
Predictably, the time went by way
My daughter flew back to Rhode Island on the 26th.
On the 30th, my son flew out to California (before heading back Boston) to spend time with his girl friend.
I held it together the best I could. I gave hugs. I whispered, “I love you.”
But once they walked away, I couldn’t stop the tears. I couldn’t make the lump in my throat go away. I couldn’t rid myself of the lonely feeling in my heart.
I miss the slow starts to the day and how the smell of coffee filled the house each morning.
I miss the time spent reading and discussing books in the afternoon while sipping cups of tea.
I miss the encouragement to suck it up and go run in the bitter cold.
I miss evenings out, dining at favorite restaurants.
I miss glasses of wine while playing Settlers of Catan.
I miss discussions about politics and education and life in general.
I miss hearing about their future plans and dreams and goals.