It’s been a frosty, sunny stretch of days here. We put up the tree, celebrated my birthday, meandered our way toward the holidays.
When I was a young teen, I made all the gifts I gave to adults. I had so many people on my list–great-grandmothers, grandparents, parents, an aunt and uncle–that I began working on them in September. I remember plotting out when I would make each one on a calendar, amazed at how little time I had. I sewed, made art, wrote books that I illustrated. I remember trying my hand at candle-making and other kinds of crafts.
This week, I have been uneasy because I am not stretched for time. By design and through loss, I have few gifts to give this year, and I can’t shake the sense that I have forgotten something important. I keep thinking there is something I’m supposed to be doing that I haven’t, and I’ve been remembering a recurring dream in which it is Christmas and I have forgotten to get presents for my family. We are having the simple holidays we decided, back in the summer, that we wanted, but I am discovering that the conditioning of 50+ years is not so easy to cast off.
I’m feeling a bit of sadness, too, some longing for holidays of years past. Today some of my cousins are gathering, but I won’t be joining them, much as I’d like to. They are too far away, Cane has to work tomorrow, and we are limiting our contact with others to increase chances that we’ll be healthy for a visit to my parents in the week after Christmas. We haven’t seen them since the summer, as illness keeps canceling our plans. The last time my extended family gathered was the Christmas of 2019. We ate the food we always eat together (Croatian spaghetti, kroštule, scotcheroos), and after dinner we sat at the table and played Apples to Apples. It was normal, familiar, comfortable, unremarkable, wonderful. For much of my life we gathered every year, around my grandmother’s table, but that year was the first time we’d been able to do so in several. We said then that we needed to make sure we didn’t let so much time pass, that we would need to make sure to meet again the following year. We had no idea what was coming at us in 2020, or that it would be years before we could gather in such a way again. Writing these words, I can’t help wondering if we ever will. How many years can we go before a tradition that had already frayed breaks completely?
I’m doing my best to let that sadness sit beside different kinds of comfort and joy–to accept that a long life is a thing of constant inconstancy, a coming-and-going stream of people and places and things that we love, a rich amalgam of grief, abundance, loss, gain, and surprise of various kinds. (We never know what might happen in any given day, do we?) This year we have my daughter with us, and her husband will be joining us from Sweden. We are looking forward to good food, a fusion of Swedish and American holiday traditions, and a day designed for introverts. I am sure there will be a year in the future–if I’m lucky–in which I will look back on this one and miss the parts of it I no longer have.
Wishing all of you peace, comfort, and joy in the coming days. I will catch up with you again in the new year.