I’ll Be Home for Christmas

I think this Christmas season is trying to kill me.

I have mixed feelings about the holiday at the best of times. On the one hand, Christmas: yay! I love just about everything about Christmas: the way the lighting in stores seems softer and yet more vibrant as the walls reflect the myriad colors of the tree lights, the music classics humming over my head, imagining the look on my son’s face when he opens his presents (which have always been enough to bring out the “wow!” but not so much that he grows bored or overwhelmed).

I also feel a little sad and nostalgic because Christmas was such a big deal at my parents’ house. I have a large immediate family – four siblings, their spouses (that sounds so cold because I don’t think of my siblings-in-law as family by marriage: they’re just more sisters and brothers of my heart) and a baker’s dozen of nieces and nephews – and this holiday was one of the few occasions when we would all gather at the same time. I can still remember the way the dining room table was set up with my mom’s nice linens, the gleam of the deep jade tiles and the way the temperature lingered just right: just warm enough, and neither dry nor humid.

It’s hard to think about how I can never, ever go back to the times like that. My parents have both been gone for many years. “Mom and Dad’s house” was sold a long time ago and has new owners (who have made the place very ugly, I might add. This isn’t my bias talking. I suppose that’s a rant for another post). Many of my nieces and nephews are grown with their own lives, and it’s difficult to get even the siblings together in one place. All of this makes my heart heart whenever I hear “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” especially the last line of the chorus: “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”

So, I was sitting in my car getting teary eyed (because I was by myself and I’m allowed to indulge myself a little when nobody is around to see me) and thinking, “Just for a minute. I’ll listen to this song, remember how it felt when everybody was together and then I’ll get onto the business of grocery shopping.”

The song finished. I reached to turn off the stereo and take my key out of the ignition but not before the next song started.

It was the Carpenters, a.k.a. the other piece of my emotional Kryptonite. It’s as if all of the world’s secret sorrows are captured in a measure of music and Karen Carpenter is the instrument through which it is channeled.

I stared at the dial for a second, thought, “This holiday season is out to get me” and turned the music off.

I was already composing myself as I exited the car. I think it’s okay to be sad. It’s also okay to miss my parents the way that I do. They were awesome parents. I don’t think it’s okay to dwell or otherwise let my life stop because of this.

The Christmas tree is coming out this week, and candy canes will be purchased tonight. I might not be able to go back in time, but I can sure as heck enjoy what’s going on right now.

I’m closing off with this video, which cracks me up and makes the whole situation seem giggle-worthy instead of depressing:

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Not Enough Coffee in the World

The cacophony erupted earlier than usual this morning. The cat was the first thing to greet me as I swung my legs over the edge of the bed. By “greet me,” I mean he immediately twined around my legs, almost caused me to fall flat on my face and then looked as me as if I needed to be more careful.

My son – actually, I’m not quite too sure what he had going on, only that it was noisy and that he trailed after me while growing progressively louder. I finally turned, gave him a bleary eyed stare and asked, “Has Mommy had her coffee yet?”

He gave me a blank look and said, “No.”

“Do you think it’s a good idea to start all of this before I’ve had my coffee?”

Understanding flashed in his eyes. “No!”

“Such a good child. I’ll see you in a few minutes, after I’ve become human again.”

I’m still working on that. While last night was a great one as far as productivity (I’m more than halfway done inĀ NaNoWriMo! 18,000 words to go! Yay!), it also meant that I was up later than usual. By the time I was ready for bed, I heard a little squeak followed by, “Mommy? I think I’m going to be sick.” Things were dodgy for a bit and at the end of it all, he asked if I would sit on his bad and talk. These little requests often make me think of my dad and his stories about growing up without a mother (my paternal grandmother died when Dad was two years old). I sat down and listened to him babble for awhile before eventually falling asleep.

He was bouncing at my bedside two hours later, ready to start the day.

I’m going to need more coffee.

Busted!

Things that are scary:

  • dolls
  • clowns
  • police men stepping out of unmarked vehicles

The last one was probably the most frightening for the late-20-something apologizing a little too profusely to seem properly innocent.

Bug took that moment to decide that he was too tired to continue walking. He sat on a nearby bench and said so. It wasn’t until I saw the way his eyes kept shifting back to the cop that I realized he was eavesdropping. I took his hand, said a few magic words (“There are cookies and milk at home”) and we were on our way.

We had just rounded the corner when the 20-something stomped past us like a six-year-old whose parents said they weren’t buying him a PS3 and a Wii and a DS just because Little Johnny down the street had one. My son managed to squelch a snicker at the way the man’s arms were pumping exaggeratedly at his sides and the way his footsteps were unnecessarily loud. He couldn’t suppress a fit of giggles when that same man was half a block away but yelled, “FUCK!”

To be honest, I kind of wanted to laugh. I don’t know why I’m so amused by people who try to get in the last word when the authority figure is just out of earshot. I also found it funny that my son – who is only four – found some twisted humor in realizing that grown ups can get in trouble, too.

It was less funny when I’d put him to bed for the night and heard his standard pre-bedtime babble interrupted by a giggle and, “Fuck. FUCK!” I stepped in, let him know that was a grown up word – but still not a very good word – and that I don’t want to hear him use it. He’s a really good kid, and that’s the last he mentioned about that.

In other news, I have a plethora of postcards to mail out this afternoon. I’m excited! Hooray for snail mail that isn’t a bill.

I really miss my dad today.

It’s not because of anything extraordinary. Today is neither a birthday nor an anniversary, and I didn’t see anything so spectacularly overwhelming that all I could think was, “Aw, Dad…”

I find it’s the small things that get me thinking. I saw an older man walking across the street (jaywalking! Scandalous!). He was shorter than my dad, his complexion was completely different and there was nothing in the set of his face that was even remotely like my pops. The way he nervously checked the cross traffic before sliding his hands in his pockets and hurriedly shuffling across the street was so very much my old man. He walked just him. I was amused that I would still recognize such a thing, that I would remember.

Then I felt sad. I was on my way to get coffee. My dad and I always got coffee together. Friday was our day. I’d head to my parents’ house right after work, and my dad would be waiting and smiling like a kid heading to the toy store. We’d go to the local Starbucks. He’d talk about politics and whatever he’d seen on CNN that day. I’d hear my sister’s voice in my head asking how I could just sit there, listen and not get bored and snap at him the way that she did. I’d say things at the appropriate places or when asked. Afterwards, we’d go to Crown Books (which is no longer there).

I miss those coffee dates, and I miss my dad. I think I miss him more than I miss my mom. I realized today that he really wasn’t just my pops: he was a good friend who understood me and honestly loved me unconditionally. I don’t think it gets any better than that.

I should end this post with the above paragraph but I imagined the conversation that I would have had if my dad was still alive. It made me smile:

Dad: Ooh! There’s a McDonalds. McDonalds has good coffee and I can use my senior citizen discount.

Me: Gross, Dad. Look, there’s a Tim Hortons across the road. Let’s go there.

Dad: Okay. (walking) Are you sure you don’t want to go to McDonalds? I’ll get you a Sausage McMuffin.

Me: I don’t eat meat, Dad, and if YOU want a breakfast sandwich, they have them at Tims, too. I’ll buy one for you.

Dad: Okay… (sideglance at the McDonalds)

(Later)

Dad: Hey! This Tim Hortons has pretty good coffee! Thanks for treating me… but can we go to McDonalds next time?