One of the consequences of celebrating Thanksgiving early was that I was ready to start listening to Christmas music in mid-November. Also, it took every inch of self-control I had to keep the Christmas decorations in their boxes until after Thanksgiving day. On Saturday night, though, I put up everything I had. The Christmas tree, the garlands, the wreaths, the candles, the table runners, all of it. In fact, I decided that I didn't have enough stuff and took Gareth with me on Sunday afternoon to brave the bustling wilds of Target. I now have even more garlands, ribbons, tins, boxes, LED candles and other assorted decorations. The only thing left to do is put the lights out on the outside of the house, but I don't know how to do that. Cliff did it for me. And then last year a kind man from church did it for me. And now I'm looking resentfully at the box of lights in my back room and pondering how I'm going to get up on the roof without endangering my life. These lights MUST go up - it's NOT an option. It's been quite a while since I felt so emphatically INSISTENT about something, but right now it is Christmas decorations.
DECK THE HALLS GUYS. BE MERRY AND BRIGHT. RIGHT NOW.
And for the first time, I'm not even feeling touchy about Christmas being "too secular" or even calling it Christmas instead of the liturgically appropriate Advent. Reindeer? Sure! Snowmen? Awesome! I want it all, secular AND Sacred: Santa Claus and misfit toys and season's greetings and happy holidays and where does Hanukkah fit in and Salvation Army bell ringers and fake snow spray and baby jesus and live nativities and candlelit services and gaudy trees and homemade stockings and cheesy music and shopping and and and and....
Last Christmas was a blur. My family was here and daddy was less and less able to eat because of the chemo and radiation and I was heavy in my fugue state and I was barely aware of anything except the fact that Gareth wouldn't sleep and it wasn't even that cold and why is everyone staring at me and and and.... And I couldn't enjoy it. I couldn't see any of it or let the season slip into my frozen brain and so I know that I decorated the house but I don't remember it. And now I'm suddenly the aggressive Christmas lady, and every day I'm tempted to buy a Christmas sweater or wear Christmas jewelry or buy 15 Poinsettias and artfully arrange them on my lawn. I swear, I even considered buying one of those huge and terrible inflatable Christmas lawn decorations. What is wrong with me?
You know how people talk about the "War on Christmas"? (BTW, that's not a real thing). Well right now, I'm waging a war on behalf of Christmas, but its a battle between me and my past. The specter of last year's tragedy keeps threatening to bring me low and it almost did as I put ornaments up on the tree that said things like "Baby's First Christmas" (6 days after Cliff's arrest) or "Our First House" (that he no longer lives in) or "Our First Christmas" (who knew we'd only celebrate 4 together?). Gareth unknowingly helped me from being floored by those unexpectedly painful ornaments - NO GARETH, DO NOT EAT THAT - but I was so MAD about losing this Christmas too. So I'm aggressively celebrating, seemingly DARING my haunted past to try and take another holiday from me.
See THAT, grief? It's a BIG GLITTERY PAINTED SIGN THAT SAYS JOY! Oh yeah, sadness? MY TABLE RUNNER HAS SANTA ON IT. These hand-sewn Stockings ARE MY FOOT SOLDIERS OF HOLIDAY CHEER. I'm in a battle with my memories and my weapons are baked goods and tinsel. Yes - I seem to have gone a little over the edge.
This Christmas is nothing like last year. But also, it's nothing like any other Christmas I've had. That seems to be the repeating refrain now - things are never, ever the same...