The Merries and Not-so-Merries of Christmas

It’s 25 degrees here in Nashville today. Everything is frozen and motionless. My car looks like it’s been sprinkled with sugar. Frozen sugar. There are sprinkles of it everywhere. The roads are dry and drive-able but my car door is frozen shut. It’s not even been a whole day and I’m already having cabin fever.

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Last night it was 70 degrees and balmy. I sat outside with friends at their Christmas party. We joked about how uncommon it was to be outside in warm weather at this time of year. It was very tropical. We knew a storm was coming and we were under a tornado watch. The rain wasn’t to come until the early morning hours so I knew I could stay for the party and get home safely before the storm hit.

I had big plans for today. I was going to visit a new church, have lunch with a friend, and go Christmas shopping. In my planning I purposefully set today apart to have fun and get out and enjoy the season. Okay, not all is lost. I listened to a couple of sermon podcasts and finished a jumbo Sudoku puzzle. And, I finally hunkered down to write. It’s been awhile.

Christmas is a week away. Christmas.

Several years back Jim and I hosted a Christmas Eve party. We did a sort of Italian theme. The dining table was loaded up with cheeses, meats, olives, tapenades and breads. The most fun we had in preparing for the party was going to San Diego’s Little Italy to shop for the food. It was Christmas Eve and as we walked through the village people everywhere would say Buon Natale. The sun was shining and the air was cool – a typical San Diego Winter’s day. People were happy and friendly. As we waited our turn at the counter at Mona Lisa’s Deli, Jim was thinking out loud what he wanted. A woman overheard him and leaned in to tell him not to buy the domestic prosciutto but to get the imported. Oh boy, was she right!

My first Christmas without Jim was less than 2 months after he had passed. Alise, our daughter, was living with me. A friend gifted us with a delivered Christmas tree. I decorated the tree and the house to try to cheer us up. We spent the holiday week driving through North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland to visit Jim’s siblings and their families – my in-laws, Alise’s aunts, uncles and cousins. As we drove though the woods and over the hills, we listened to Serial with Sarah Koenig about a murder in Maryland. We ate, drank, laughed and cried with the family – together, yet separate in our own cocoon of shock and grief.

By the second Christmas Alise had moved out and had settled well into Nashville living. We shopped for our tree and brought it home in the back of her station wagon. Christmas Eve was spent with a group of friends, playing games and eating way too much. Christmas morning I undecorated the tree and threw it in the backyard before Alise took me to the airport. I flew to San Diego to spend the week with my folks and see friends.

As I waited for my flight I drank champagne and ate breakfast at the newly opened bar across from my gate. Families and couples surrounded me. Everyone was happy and so was I. Traveling on Christmas day was perfect.

The flight was easy but one of the flight attendants didn’t seem very warm and friendly – until we landed. Landing at Lindbergh Field in San Diego is pretty special. You can see the bay and Coronado Island and views of the city. It usually makes me emotional. As we were approaching to land the not-so-friendly attendant got on the radio and started singing a Christmas song. I don’t remember what it was but she succeeded in getting us all to sing with her. Then, she shared that she was heading on to another city to see her mother and that if we were seeing our mothers to be sure to kiss them. That did me in. I made sure I kissed my mother.

This Christmas is the third Christmas since Jim’s been gone. I had those friends of mine over to help me decorate the tree, which was bought and delivered by one of them. I’ve been to several parties and two Christmas concerts. I’ve made biscotti and tree ornaments. I’ve gone Christmas shopping. My new roommate keeps me company and decorates the place with cut out snowflakes.

It’s not the same without Jim. I wish I could tell you it’s getting easier. One Christmas you’re walking the sunny streets of Little Italy saying Buon Natale and then suddenly you’re stuck frozen.

There are many things I remember and miss at Christmastime. This is a melancholy time of year. It’s in the forecast. But I am so thankful for those memories and for the new ones being made. I won’t be stuck here forever. Cabin fever is a good sign.