Christmas was great here. It always is. The grandkids know what it's about and there's always a rousing chorus of "Joy to the World" which seems to be their favorite Christmas Carol. Mine too, truth be told. And they take turns telling the story of the Charlie Brown tree, which brings the meaning of Christmas home to them in a personal way they can understand. Kendra just likes the Candy Canes.
But I always have a little twinge, too, remembering those who aren't celebrating with us. My beloved Ma, buried on a snowy Christmas Eve. The fact that the church was packed, standing room only, on such a busy day and in such inclement weather says more about her than I ever could. And Austin. There's a special story about the first Christmas he and his new wife Joy shared. Joy has since remarried and she and new hubby James just welcomed baby Rebekah into the world in September. Their Christmas card this year was a photo of the three of them sporting fake mustaches, a poignant reminder that Austin is still with them in their hearts. Jamie and Rachel, along with their two little ones Landyn and Madelyn, are back in Chicago. And Little Diane and her new hubby Dustin are starting their own Christmas traditions while blending some of ours - the ones she grew up with when she and Jamie lived with us all those years. She recreated the Charlie Brown tree exactly as her great-grandmother started it - with a branch from her back yard standing in a coffee can, leaning in the corner, with a few silly ornaments on it. Dustin's mother looked at it like it was an appalling decoration and told her it looked silly there. Right then and there Little Diane moved it...from the corner to center stage on the dining room table. Then she told his parents why there would always be a Charlie Brown tree in her house. THAT'S my girl!
Hardest this year was not sharing at least part of Christmas with daughter Terrin. In the past, no matter what was going on in her life, she called...she sent a card....she posted on my FB page. But this fall she posted a message that talked about how cruel we were to her when she was growing up. It was an awful tirade, full of half truths and out and out lies. Her "friends" of course, commiserated with her and aggravated the entire situation. The next post was simply, "Aside from my son Jamie, I have no family. I don't want them in my life. It's the life they screwed up and I can't fix any of it if they still exist, so to me they are all dead." Despite knowing that it is her mental illness speaking, it hurt. But because we've gone through this kind of thing with her for decades, we still bundled up her gifts, wrote her a nice letter, tucked in pictures and a check, added her usual tin of peanut brittle and mailed it off the first week in December. We got it back unopened, marked "Refused" on Christmas Eve. I can't change it...if love was enough to fix everything she'd never have been sick in the first place. But I'll be 65 next week. She'll be 45 in 2 weeks. We can't go back, and she won't go forward, so we're at a stalemate. I can't spend the years I have left fretting over things I have no control over, so this time I'll wait. I'll be here when she's ready, but I'm not going to waste precious time trying to put the genie back in the bottle again. We all prayed for her. I hope she felt it and knows we love her.
Other than that fly in the ointment, and every family has at least one somewhere (or will have someday) it was a glorious two day celebration of the joy (and boo-boos) of family and renewed hope. In the end it's not about us anyway, is it?