Day 13:: Depression

Orange Leaves Day 13

Depression. It is probably best described by one of my favorite raw, yet funny, bloggers here and here. It has a way of sneaking up on you when you think everything is okay.

For the past two years, it’s been stalking me, especially now as the holidays begin.

Halloween 1

This will be the third year in a row that I do not feel like decorating for what once was my favorite day — Halloween. I used to decorate nearly every inch of my home. I have fun and wonderfully unique “friends” to fill my shelves and corners. When grandchildren began popping into my life, my husband and I began taking annual Halloween photos with them. We’d choose a theme and everyone would dress the part. We’d cram into a studio shot and viola! Halloween magic. I’d begin watching videos and DVD’s of horror classics and horror B movies. I truly enjoy them all.

Halloween 2

I’ve spent years listening to my husband complain about all the preparation for Halloween {although afterwards he basks in the limelight of people’s “Oooohs” and “Ahhhs” when the metamorphosis is complete}. Then the day to take the Halloween photo with the grandkids started being moved around by requests. It went from being taken on the third weekend in October, to the third weekend of September, to the beginning of September and then it was suggested that it be moved to March. March. Who wants to dress up for Halloween when the whole world is thinking spring and green beer and bunnies and Easter? Nobody, really. So the Halloween helium began to slowly leak out of that balloon.

One month of orange and black fun. One day of fun and family with our grandkids. Thirty-one days in October. I only wanted one.

thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has been a switch-off holiday since all of our daughters grew up and got married. Every other year is pretty much how it goes. Except the every-other-year is different with every-other-daughter. Last year was the first year that I was finally able to get my mother out here for a holiday. That holiday was Thanksgiving. My sister came out to. It was also the first holiday — ever — the three of us were going to spend together. I was hoping for our whole family to somehow make it together for, I don’t know, maybe an hour. Dessert, perhaps? Just a moment of having us all together for my mother. On a holiday. My mother and sister and I have not had a normal mother-daughter(s)-sister(s) life. My mother didn’t raise us. My sister and I grew up separated, with our paternal families. But for the last fifteen years I’ve been diligently chewing away at all the crap those decades of separation, of not having a mother, of not having a sister, of not having a parent or sibling to turn to and share with — in an effort to get to the good stuff, the better feelings, the as-normal-as-it-can-be relationship. I had a strong feeling that last Thanksgiving would be the first and last holiday of any kind that my mother would be able to have surrounded by my immediate family. I still feel that way. The opportunity won’t come around again. I know my feelings. I have felt this way twice before in the last five years. These feelings aren’t the kind you share with too many people. They are the kind you share with acquaintances, with coworkers, with strangers — anyone who isn’t vested in the relationship with the person who won’t be here again.

Christmas 1

“And the Grinch with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,

stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons.

It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.

And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore.

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.

What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”

As a child, I was always alone at Christmas. I was raised as an only child, growing up with my father. I used to imagine having siblings and aunts and uncles and grandparents around. Those relatives others had and visited. I’d spend hours just coloring alongside the silver tree with bulbs all of one color, while the color-wheel creakily turned. When you see old film footage of me at Christmas, I’m playing with my new toys, alone. I’m outside with a new bike or sled, alone. Because everyone else is somewhere else, enjoying time spent with siblings, cousins, and some relatives they would only see on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. The real stuff of memories shared and memories in the making. They couldn’t sit at the table like we could and eat their holiday meal — because there were too many of them and the table was too small.

My husband’s family had this wonderful tradition called Kris Kins. Every Christmas the adult couples would choose another couple’s names and be their Secret Santa all.year.long. Birthdays, anniversaries, and then reveal themselves when the family gathered for the BIG family Christmas. Names of the children would be chosen at random by the “host” family and sent to the rest of the families around Thanksgiving, so that the children could exchange gifts with cousins.

This wonderful tradition lasted over 35-years, but along the way it was chipped away at by a few of my husband’s siblings and in-laws. One sister-in-law complained about another’s horrible gifts — of how she took so much time and thought and effort and money to get really, really nice gifts for the cousins her children had, and how this other sister-in-law didn’t. This same sister-in-law also complained about how another relative couple were cheap, and yet how another couple were always late to the party and always were “swinging by a store” for their gifts on the way to the gathering. There were complaints by others about where the gathering was being hosted: “No one’s house is big enough for all of us anymore,” “So-and-so’s house is too far,” and “There’s no place for the children to play, away from the adults, so that the adults can talk.” Then the year came when a sister-in-law pretty much nailed the Christmas KK tradition coffin shut. She suggested that in lieu of having Kris Kins anymore, the family should send “what they would have spent on a KK gift” to her, so that all the money could be sent in one big check to a charity. And, with that, the tradition died.

In the last several years, I’ve begun to hear the same lamenting from our daughters. They grow up, they go out into the world, they marry, and as their social circles grow so, too, does the influence of others. *sigh*

Christmas manger

I can still remember what it was like to not have a house. When you celebrate Christmas in an apartment with four small girls, every house is BIG enough. I can still remember when I couldn’t afford to buy gifts at all. When all you can afford to buy your children are trinkets from K-mart, any gift given or received that costs more than $10 is thoughtful and enough. When you take your children to the neighborhood smorgasbord for a holiday meal, because you can’t afford to buy the groceries you need to make the same meal AND the pots, pans, and utensils to actually cook & serve it, then eating the “same” homemade and served holiday fare, every year, is a gift. When you grow up without a large extended family to share the holy-DAY with, and then are blessed with more immediate relatives than you can count on fingers & toes, the real blessing of the holidays shouldn’t be so hard to recognize and hold on to.

It’s not commercialism that kills the holiday spirit, it’s people. People stampede all over their own blessings, because they get to a point where they fail to really, truly see them anymore. Life isn’t Burger King. Blessings can’t be ordered your way. You must take them as they are. It’s more than just placing the Manger under the tree or on the sideboard. It’s believing the message and in the Messenger that lies in the straw-laden crib. That’s where the real magic is.

Yes, holidays can be depressing. Holidays should never be about you, they should be about us.

We can talk about how much we love one another and how many blessings we have all.year.long.  At this time of year, especially, talk is what’s cheap.  This is the time of year when the bases are full and you have to step up to the plate and show everyone what you’ve really got.

Now give me an “Amen!” and pass the pixie-dust.

3 comments

  1. Wow. Again your post brings up feelings that I can’t think how to put into words. One, is sadness and regret that I wasn’t there for you like I should have been. Two, that sadness you get when you realize that what you imagine your family being together again would be like and it’s not. Three, gratefulness that your love and forgiveness has made a place for me in your family again. Love you…..

    • Dear friend, you were exactly where you were supposed to be and so was I. The past is just that — past. I love you, too, and –> Happy Birthday!

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