two years ago, on christmas day, my family spent the day at my grandmother’s house. she had bought eggnog and kept telling us to drink it, she had bought it especially for us; finally my dad buckled and poured himself a glass. he took a huge gulp…and proceeded to launch his 6’5″ self across the living room straight to the kitchen sink, where he spit out his eggnog and made a lot of dramatic gagging noises.
“ma, the eggnog’s bad!” he says, still spitting (so dramatic!). then he picks up the carton to check the expiration date.
“ma…you bought EGG-BEATERS!”
at which point my mother started laughing so hard she fell off of the ottoman.
this is, without a doubt, one of my favorite family holiday memories. maybe i remember it so vividly because it was damn funny. but maybe, retrospectively, i’ve clung to it because less than two weeks later, my mother was dead. suddenly and inexplicably, just five days into the new year.
now my grandmother is gone too. i actually told this story in the eulogy i gave at her funeral this summer.
my mother loved the holidays. she loved baking, making candy, she loved giving people things just to see their reactions. on thanksgiving night we would all sing “it’s beginning to look a lot like christmas” on the car ride back from my cousin’s house, and mom would put her favorite christmas CDs on pretty much non-stop from then until december 25th.
while i was driving home from campus today i saw a few houses with lights out, even an SUV with christmas bulbs strung through the cargo rack on its roof. and try as i might, i cannot find it in my heart to be excited for the holidays.
ever since mom died, christmas has done nothing but make me so goddamn sad. and now that i don’t have grandma, either, it’s like the hole in my heart is magnified.
i want to be excited, to enjoy the holiday spirit, to feel that little buzz of excitement you get when you know something wonderful is waiting just around the corner.
but i hear bing crosby singing “white christmas” and all i can hear is my mother singing along. i see baking supplies in bulk and on sale and i’m flooded with the smells of mom’s candied walnuts, fudge, and trays upon trays of cookies. i see trees and garlands and decorations and i think about how my grandmother dubbed me “santa” and bought me my own hat when i was a kid, and i was in charge of distributing the gifts on christmas eve since i was the youngest and had the most energy.
when i went home this summer i packed that hat, along with the ornaments my mom made and all of her recipe cards, in one of my bins of things to keep when we sell the house.
i want the holidays to be a time of love and laughter. but two of the three people i love the most aren’t here any more, and somehow the holiday season seems to augment that void. which means that instead of singing carols and baking cookies and decorating a tree…i kind of want to curl up under my covers and not come out until spring.