Erin's Journals

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Just a thought… It’s hard to turn the page when you know someone won’t be in the next chapter, but the story must go on. [Thomas Wilder]

To Tree, or Not to Tree? That’s been the question. Until this year.

This week, our daughter-in-law Brooke, who is exactly for whom Hallmark makes all of those holiday movies, my pumpkin-spice-and-everything-nice girl shared progress reports of her Christmas decorating with me. And it has occurred to me that it’s time to dig way deep and find the boxes that got taped shut in early 2015 and haven’t been opened even once since.

Christmas of 2014 was the best of our lives. Our daughter and her husband brought their beautiful two-and-a-half month old son to our home, where we had a ten-foot real tree decorated and lit for the holidays.

My dad came from BC to be with us; Lauren’s cousin and her husband and baby boy came for a visit, as did my sister and her husband, and members of Rob’s family, and it was grand. Perfect, even.

I pulled out my late mom’s china so she would be with us during our dinner celebrations and we had a marvelous family gathering, delayed a day so that Lauren could be with her in-laws for Christmas Eve and part of Christmas Day. I am so grateful for the memories of that week, those not-so-silent nights, the music we all played together and the laughter. Oh, the laughter.

Well...mostly grateful.

I have pictures I’ll stumble upon from that time, but never on purpose. In my computer there’s a file marked Xmas 2014 with videos, carefully posed and lit family shots – all things that I just haven’t been able to look at, never mind dive into. Except for a few short videos that are on my phone and some recordings of her singing, I haven’t been in a place where my heart felt ready to go back to being in the midst of her joyful, funny alive-ness.

Honestly, what kind of mood do you have to be in to consciously choose to be sucked down into a dark hole? There can be no other outcome than sadness, and as you know, I’ve very consciously chosen not to look back, but to be present in our happiness and point my attention to a future we’re building every day.

So what to do about those boxes and boxes of decorations? I’m not going to donate them and start fresh; there are too many silly traditions therein. From a little sewing mouse ornament my grandmother gave me to some macaroni angels I glued and painted (that are actually a lot better than they sound!) and countless remembrances of family Christmases past. I’ve simply erased any inventory of what else might be there, and not by accident.

Bypassing a tree again this year is not an option. We even have an artificial one somewhere from before we chose to go natural. Before COVID, Rob and I were planning to fly from Palm Springs to spend Christmas with our grandchildren in Ottawa but, of course, 2020 had different plans – wonderful ones, in our case, as they’re just down the road now – and we’re embracing these ones: Christmas Eve at our place, Christmas morning at theirs, and then Christmas dinner back here. Thank goodness they are our family bubble and we are theirs. Who knows what the situation will be come December 24th etc.?

And so, there will be a Christmas tree. We’ll puppy- and baby-proof it and make it as beautiful as can be for Colin, Jane and their parents. If Colin cared to (which I’m pretty sure he won’t) I’d invite him to decorate it with us. I’m not sure how or when we’re going to do this, but I’m making the silent pledge to us, and for that matter, to Lauren: “We Can Do This.” It all goes to that last part of Mourning Has Broken where I imagined her asking me what I did with my life after she left. “Cancelled Christmas forever…” is not an answer that would get a thumbs up.

Too many people are suffering the loss or distance of their loved ones this year. Who am I to turn my back on the gifts that have come our way in the past four months, in the form of a beautiful baby, her loving and funny big brother, and their mom and dad?

Life has too much pain. It’s time to rip off the Band-aid – and the packing tape – and get on with embracing that Christmas spirit, in whatever form it comes.

Have a gentle weekend, my friend, and I’ll be back with a journal for you on Monday.

Rob WhiteheadThursday, November 19, 2020