Last year I made the decision to embrace a perfectly imperfect Christmas (and I wrote a blog post about it which ironically also happens to be the most chaotic, imperfect post I've ever written). I decided that I was no longer going to allow the expectations of what Christmas is supposed to look like to bring me down. You see, with each passing year, the holidays became increasingly difficult and sad for me. Mostly, I have yearned to have the Christmases I grew up having. I have longed to have my mom with me. I have dreamed of what it would be like to have her and my dad still living in the U.S., in my childhood home. I have imagined Christmas shopping for my baby, Gabriel and Christmas mornings with three children opening gifts, instead of only two.
Every year, since 2000, I have bought an ornament in memory of Gabriel. It’s hard to believe I have 15 now. In 2008, I decorated ornaments in memory of my mom and Jeanne, my birth-mom. In 2011, I bought an ornament in the shape of a paw in memory of my precious Mimi. The ornaments have been a way of making them present in my home for the holidays. I felt like I was honoring them and keeping their memories alive during a time of year that was so difficult for me not to have them around. Every year, putting up the tree has been bittersweet. I’ve enjoyed decorating it as a family but with each memorial ornament I’d put up, I’d feel pain and sorrow for the loved ones I miss so much.
Last year for Gabriel, I ordered a star-shaped ornament by Kelly Rae Roberts that says “Shine Brightly”. All of my Gabriel ornaments are either stars or snowflakes in white or silver. The “Shine Brightly” ornament is lime green and pink. It was part of my attempt at embracing imperfection. I convinced myself that it didn’t matter if the ornament was nothing like all the others. I know it sounds silly, but it was a huge deal to me to break tradition like that! When my Kelly Rae ornament arrived, I was giddy with excitement at how perfectly it depicted the way I have been trying to live my life for the past three years…shining brightly. That ornament made me feel the way I wanted all of my ornaments to make me feel.
When I took down the tree, I decided that I was going to put all of the memorial ornaments together in one box and that it had been the last Christmas I’d use them. During that holiday season, I had realized that I had given the ornaments too much power. Seeing them on the tree made me worse, not better. They didn’t just remind me of who I had lost, they also reminded me to be sad. And I no longer wanted to have a sad Christmas.
Last weekend, we decorated our tree. DJ brought the boxes into the house and we started pulling everything out. The memory that I had placed all of the ornaments together in one box came rushing back. I began to feel anxious. I knew that seeing them would trigger me. I cautiously peeked in box by box until I came across a letter “G” ornament along with the paw ornament. (I had not separated those, I guess.) I felt the tears welling up. “Oh no”, I thought, “Here we go again.” When I found “the box”, I moved it to the side and placed the “G” and the paw in there too. I didn’t go through the box. There was no need to pull them out and see them once again.
As the kids and DJ decorated the tree with Christmas music playing, I slipped away to my room with my box of sadness. I immediately decided that I no longer wanted to come across this box and feel this way each holiday season. I began to sob, remembering the many years of sadness I had endured during Christmas. And it’s hard to explain, but the tears felt like grief. I was mourning that girl I was once upon a time. I was mourning the close of that chapter of her life. I was grieving all she had lost and the pain she had felt for so many years. I was grieving the loss of her deep wounds that had finally healed. I was mourning that she would probably never buy another ornament again for Gabriel. I was grieving that the ornaments had served their purpose and now they were done. As I tucked the box away into the closet I mourned that she no longer needed her box of sadness. She was ready to let go and make room for joy. She was ready to shine brightly each and every Christmas from here on out.
|My imperfect tree with a crooked star|