Oh, yes. Christmas. Lest we forget. Such an afterthought, and then suddenly all in your face because actually you can’t reschedule December 25th to a later date. (Like, to “never”.)
Christmas Eve was do-able though, spending it at my sister-in-laws new home (the one all Brad’s siblings were raised in) for her inaugural holiday hosting. A reasonably fine time with all four siblings and almost all of their family members. Tree, food, laughter, screaming, chaos, conversation, anticipation, decorations, mandatory thank-yous to aunts and uncles. Your typical Christmas fare, for those fortunate to have a bonafide Hallmark holiday milieu. A category we quite consciously and gratefully accept. A couple family members graciously took pictures of us holding Anna’s little pink bunny in front of the tree (the family Christmas picture, as it were) without saying a word about it being weird or trite or self-indulgent. God bless them.
The thoughts you couldn’t stop of course, are the ones that include Anna plopping on her behind as she turned too fast for her uncoordinated little standing body to handle when the barking dog chased the yowling cat down the hall with two squealing 8-9 year old girls right behind them with the combined intention of creating more havoc, witnessing the potential carnage and trying to stop said carnage. Certainly Anna would have looked to us with questioning eyes to determine whether she should freak out or how, exactly, she should handle the cacaphony down the hall. “If Mom and Dad are cool, I’ll be cool.” The attention her cousins would have lavished on her. All eyes on her as she clumsily got to her own round-edged, non-choking, brain stimulating, drive-Mom-&-Dad-to-drink noisy gifts. Feeding her before ourselves. A conked out little girl in sleeper jammies on the way home, dead weight as her Daddy carried her inside, so safe and comfortable and warm. The rest of us deeply satisfied in the way you feel when the world is right.
Instead we pretty much didn’t talk about her (no need to state the obvious) and went home shivering in our gratitude for what was and our bottomless heartache for what wasn’t. Is feeling concurrently full for your blessings while utterly hollow for your losses a singularly human experience? One wonders.