its the little things this time of year…

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It’s such a small thing really. Insignificant. Not even worth the effort to think about in comparison to how this entire year has gone.

Yet, there it is.

One more chink in the armor. And just one more reason to wonder if life constantly takes instead of gives. 

Maybe this is just the way it goes? 

If I reach down deep in the memory banks, its there. That feeling that comes with nostalgia and reminiscing

The way things used to be.

Such a fleeting memory, fuzzy and hard to grasp at…

It was the early 1980’s. Smoke hung heavy in the air.  Music playing from a  large wooden console, the old-style turntable set into a curio or cabinet of some sort.  Open the cabinets and pull out records or an old photo album.  There were shelves of photo albums, and this is where the overflow of binders were shoved when family needed a place to set their drinks or plates down.

The tree was in the middle of the large window.  Cousins running everywhere, with aunts and uncles talking over the crescendo of the melody.  Grandpa sitting in his favorite chair, scowling and holding his beer, trying to listen in on the various conversations, but the noise simply drowned out the words, so he simply held onto his goatee with his three fingers, tugging repeatedly and looking as if he were deep in contemplation.

The missing fingers were always a source of anxiety for the smaller children.  That and the eye patch.  Grandpa looked like Colonel Sanders, yet instead of smile, he more often wore a frown.  I never did find out what made him so cantankerous, but thankfully, he never scared me.  His blue eye would twinkle when I would run up and hug him and give his cheek a quick kiss before I scampered off, showing off my dress, and I am sure the mud stains that came with a sister trying to keep up with her older brother.  Yet, Grandma… was an angel.  Always soft and gentle, and smiling at the chaos and commotion that were her children. All the babies, toddlers and little ones were drawn to her.  I was no different.

I was often reminded of how I was the baby of the baby of the family.  Somehow, I felt as if that meant I was different…special.  Then again, my grandmother had a way of making you feel as if you were her favorite.  And deep down, I genuinely believed I was.  It never occurred to my young mind that she had the gift of making all of her children, and grandchildren and yes, even her great-grandchildren feel as if they were her favorite.

Of course, clearing away the smoke, and the noise, and looking at the scene from an adult’s perspective, I can see the reality of what probably was.  The adults drinking whiskey, tired from working too hard.  The kids oblivious to the stresses of their parents and showing off their new Christmas treasures.  The smell of beans and stale beer, in a house that I now understand to have been so incredibly small.  Yet, when I was young, it certainly never felt that way.

I felt safe…and warm…and loved.  I felt the excitement of Christmas, and the tree and the family all together.

And that is what seems to be missing this year.

I can’t remember very many Christmas trees or holidays of my youth. Honestly, I think my mom tried for a few years after my father died, but it was never the same.  I can’t blame her for simply giving up after my brother died several years later.  I don’t think I could have faked a cheery holiday either.

But that feeling, the one I felt all those years ago. That’s the feeling I try to recreate every year since I had children of my own. 

As silly as it sounds, it all starts and ends with a real Christmas tree.  Not just any tree will do either.  It has to be a REAL tree.  And there is a strict protocol of how to choose the perfect tree.  I have to smell it!

That’s all really.  It has to be BIG, to the ceiling BIG and fluffy and full… and it has to SMELL like Christmas.  No matter where I am, or what is going on in my life, when the holidays approach, it is the one thing that can pull me into the Christmas mood.

While I love hosting parties and dinners for family and friends, the holidays just don’t feel like they have truly begun until I have taken my three children to hunt down the perfect tree for the year.  They moan and groan about the process, but always seems to be smiling and into by the time we have it picked out.  Although, since my household is not considered a democracy, I always make the final decision about the actual tree we end up bringing home.  In my mind, its only fair.  When they have their own families, they get to create their own traditions. In my household, it is my sniffer that chooses the specific tree.  Through the years, we have tried various techniques of finding the epic tree each year; a tree lot where proceeds help families in need, a tree farm, and yes, one time we even tried to pick a tree from a grocery store (pure blasphemy in my mind!)

So really, in a year like 2020, it is just one more thing to have taken away.

This year, there will be no holiday parties.  No dinners to host, no wine by the fireplace, sitting in the dark and breathing in the scent of the forest, and remembering back to when, for just a moment in my life, I had perfection.

Why am I even sad? It really isn’t supposed to be that big of deal in the whole scheme of things.  After all, his heart was in the right place. Matthew wanted to ease my stress and burden by ordering a fake Christmas tree.  He said it would be easier, and less to worry about.  I grudgingly agreed.  This year has already felt as if it is taking forever to get over.  Why not do things the easy way this time?

I thought it wouldn’t matter.

Don’t get me wrong. Once it was put together, the lights already prearranged, it is a beautiful, large tree.  The kids even argued and fought over the placement of each bulb, just like years past.  But it hasn’t quite been the same.

Christmas is nearly here.  I am trying, really, I am.  I am digging down deep for some sort of Christmas spirit or joy or happiness, but it seems to be farther down than I have ever had to dig before.

Oh, I am sure I will pull it together soon enough.  I doubt the kids will even notice really.  I will slap a smile on my face, and squeal with delight as they unwrap the presents.  I will find gratitude that we have stayed healthy this year.  I will find joy that my children are happy and relatively unscathed by the collateral damage of this never-ending year known as 2020.  I will even be sort of glad I didn’t have to worry about watering the damn tree every couple of days, or the constant sweeping of the needles as the days lead to weeks of dried out dead limbs.

But for now, I just want to be sad.

I want to be sad at the people I have known, some I have met or spoken with and who have since passed this year. I have seldom gotten on social media these last several months, and each time I pop on for a quick moment, I see another friend or acquaintance, a person I never would have known existed if it weren’t for social media….and if it weren’t for ALS…and they are now gone.  I hate the constant reminders, and the constant losses, and the constant feeling of helplessness.

I want to mourn the fact that my children are almost grown, and I don’t have much more time with them before they leave me.  I hate that they will only really remember me as their mother who cared for their step-father who had ALS.  I want them to remember me as loving and fun and a larger than life, full of energy mother who loved them more than they could ever fathom…not someone who was constantly tired. 

I want to wallow in what a crappy year it has been, and while I have so much to still be grateful for, I really just want some good things to happen.  I don’t want to look at the news, or politics anymore. I don’t want to know what side of the divide everyone is on. I don’t want to see the injustices and anger and lies being spewed, and I certainly don’t want to talk about viruses, diseases or death.

And honestly, I just want to be pissed off that I didn’t get a real damn Christmas tree!

It is silly and stupid, and I know it.  And for just a moment, I just want to stomp my foot at the unfairness of life. Of how it constantly chips away and takes the little things.  And it has taken more this year than it has the right to take….not just from me, but from so many others.

It may just be a tree.  And yes, I know it is more than most people get, or will have this year.  I get it. I am beyond grateful at the ability to even be able to buy a fake Christmas tree.

But I need it.

I need it to remind me of the warmth and love that families have, and the memories that can be shared.  I need it to remind me of where I came from.  And what I can still help to create for those around me.

And honestly, I love the way they smell…it brings back happy, and sweet memories of when life was simple and kind. I need more of those memories now more than ever.

So, cheers to 2020…a year of many lessons, trials and tribulations.  May we do better, try harder and love deeper in the coming year.

But till then, I will be over here…pouting about a damn tree…

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