Without bells, without bows.

I didn’t want it to come but it came anyway.  I worried about how I’d get everything done in 3 days. There was no way to stop it.

Christmas was coming; whether I wanted it to or not.

I’ve always loved the holiday season, but in the last few years with traumatic events having occured in December, I find myself bracing against it. It’s as if my body remembers even though my mind tries it’s best to forget. This year in particular was hard and I wasn’t aware until right up to the time of celebration

We’d had a crazy year and I found myself compartmentalizing so many things.

As a hairdresser it’s the busiest time of year and for the last few, my husband and I had waited until the last 3 or 4 days before Christmas to shop. Bills come first and we never know exactly how much money we’ll make…..being self employed. Obviously that determines how much we’ll spend.

We had just moved in with his parents in October after a really rough year and a half. The responsibility of not having to decorate was a relief.  I’ve always felt that as a mother and a wife it’s my job to set the tone. I make the holiday by the atmosphere I create.

None of that would be my doing. I was exempt and trying to escape into my job.

I worked up until December 21st and J and I planned on knocking out all of our shopping in a few days. This is very easy for me.

I don’t go shopping; I go getting. When I leave the house I already know where I’m going and what I’m going to buy.

The youngest boy had been sick with what I thought was a cold so he’d been home with Grandma while I went to work and when he ceased to get better I became suspiscious. His illness had gone on for 4 days…too long for just a sore throat and a cold. The first morning I was off I asked him if I could look in his throat and it was clearly obvious. Strep.

I hauled him off to the doctor….I didn’t tell him he’d be swabbed. He was pissed………..got his medication and brought him home.

Christmas Eve came and we were planning to celebrate at my bother’s house where my parents would be staying as they come from out of town. But, our house has always been the one where we celebrate the holidays. It’s usually my mom and I that prepare the food together …………she and I play a thing I call “cocktails around the world”……..and they stay at our house.

This has been the way we’ve doing it for years. At the time I was relieved to not have all that hanging over my head. I thought this was a good thing.

Until Christmas Eve came.

That afternoon, my oldest son told me he wasn’t feeling well either and that he wasn’t sure he would be going with us to my brother’s house.

I completely understood as I had a sore throat as well. As we gathered everyone up to leave, he decided to come and we all barreled into my family’s celebration.

I was aware I didn’t feel well, but I had stuff to do and I knew I’d be able to sleep eventually.

Dinner was delicious and my brother and sister-in-law’s house was beautifully decorated. Once everyone had finished eating we went into the living room and my parents and my brother’s family proceeded to shower my boys with gifts. This was very unexpected. We’d agreed years ago that we wouldn’t exchange presents. I hadn’t brought a thing.  I felt terrible and embarrassed.

I was still shell shocked from the last 18 months barely thinking about anything except what had to be done.

It came time to leave as my oldest was feeling very poorly by then and it was time for my youngest’s next dose of antibiotics…….. I’d left them in the fridge at home.

As I got up from the couch to go hug and thank my brother, I walked past their Christmas tree.

He is by far one of the sweetest men I know….2nd to my husband……and I think he knew what was going on with me even if I didn’t.

I turned as my mom came over to me and I looked at the tree and started to say, “I miss my own tree. I miss having my own house.”

The second sentence came out completely garbled with tears. They poured down hitting me like a ton of bricks. I had not even thought about anything to do with the holiday. Truth is I hadn’t let myself think about Christmas because I didn’t really want it to come. Different from the previous years. Even different from the year when my boys were so graciously given money from an anonymous person.

This year I had tried to numb myself. To not feel. Maybe I thought if I did that I could ignore the festivities and not feel the losses that I hadn’t let myself deal with.

Ones that had occured 6 years before.

Funny when you stop running from feelings they find you, crashing like a wave over your head. I know I’m being vague but I haven’t revealed any of those things in writing……..guess I’m waiting for the right time to tackle that subject.

I didn’t want the holiday to come. Plain and simple. I didn’t want to do it because none of the particulars were right. Nothing was how I knew it. None of my own decorations or ornaments were present….all the things I’ve collect throughout the years. None of those things were in the house we were calling home. I wanted to skip everything and fast forward to January.

But the gift of Christmas is just that. A gift.

I wasn’t ready to receive it and God (the Universe, whatever you want to believe) was profoundly patient in waiting for me to accept it. Waiting for me to be ready to understand that this gift didn’t require anything in return.

Even when I felt I had nothing left of me to give.

The gift of being loved on by my parents and the rest of my immediate family. Being cocooned……..having a soft place to land until I could properly acknowledge what He already knew. I was sad and in mourning. I had done my very best to ignore it, stuffing it down amidst the chaos and work that had become my life.

The gift of Christmas, I believe, is love. Unconditional love.

I didn’t want Christmas to come but it did. It came without bells, without bows because a gift of that size cannot possibly be contained in a box……….




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