I used to love holidays. Growing up there were big family gatherings and community celebrations. I looked forward to helping my grandma cook and set the table. There was lots of laughter and joy and happiness. Celebrating holidays was important to my family.
When I went off to college I would go home for some of the holidays. And for those I couldn’t there was always an invitation to a friend’s house or an event for college students. Laughter and joy and happiness even though I wasn’t with my family.
CycleGuy’s family is small but there are lots of aunts and uncles and cousins who get together for holidays. One Thanksgiving we went to Denver to be with his family. I think there were over 50 people who came through. There was more food than needed, lots of laughter, joy, and happiness. It reminded me of home.
But after my grandpa died and my family was much smaller, it was never the same. I tried to recreate the house full of people and all the joy that came with it. But people move away, lives get busy, and things change.
It’s not that I don’t like celebrating holidays. Although, some people like to say I do. It’s just different now. Even though I try to make the holidays special so BabyGirl can create great childhood memories, without my mom and grandma and grandpa it’s kind of weird. When I was in my 20s and 30s it didn’t seem unusual on holidays not to be with the family I grew up with. Now that I’m in my 40s, though, holidays are a very strong reminder that all my family is gone.
Sure, I have CycleGuy and BabyGirl and Aunt Zoni and Grandpa Tommy. But as much as I try it seems like each year I miss my mom and grandpa and grandma more. I write this as Thanksgiving is upon us, but it’s the same sentiment for Hanukkah, Passover, and Rosh Hashana. As much as I want the laughter, joy, and happiness to be there I feel like I work so hard for it. I should come easy. Like when I was a kid.
Holidays bring the gamut of emotions. We remember those who has passed while we forge ahead to make new memories. It’s not that I don’t like holidays. It’s that I want them to be the same idyllic celebrations they once were. And because they’re not, I struggle with different being OK.
I’m writing this for those who are like me and find the holidays somewhat difficult. Difficult in the sense that we love them and the memories and the family and the getting together. Even the cleaning and cooking and more cleaning. And the leftovers. But it’s not the same because there are people we’re missing so much that they’ve left a hole in our heart that just hasn’t closed yet.
My mother loved every holiday and despite often not feeling well, she would make it a priority to be around friends and family. I feel like times are different now, though. That being in the presence of others doesn’t mean they’re present. It’s like a disconnected connectedness. And I have a hard time with that.
Times are changing and I need to change with them. At the same time I’m responsible for helping to create the foundation of how BabyGirl will look back on the holidays of her childhood. I don’t have many left with her, and that makes it even more difficult for me.
So this year I’ll try something new and channel my mom and do for others. Because it’s hard to feel sad or alone when you’re surrounded by others who are so glad you’re there. People who are present and appreciate that you gave up part of your day for them. And I’ll do it with my family and I’ll go in feeling the happiness and joy that I once felt. Just knowing it’s still there means there’s a likelihood I can rekindle it.
How do you spend the holidays? Not just Thanksgiving, but all the holidays? Do you have family you miss that keeps you from doing things? Or do you make sure to do things to keep their memory alive?