One of the long lived traditions in our home has been to decorate for Christmas on Thanksgiving weekend. Usually on Friday, after Thanksgiving has been put away and before getting ready for the next week. The last couple years it seems our decorating has been getting done late in the day on Thanksgiving, so the kids can leave to go to their respective homes. And that has been fine.
This year has been different. My son will not be here for the holidays at all, as he will be spending them in Afghanistan. My oldest daughter choose to spend Thanksgiving with her boy friends family in Florida; and this is fine. She is old enough to make this choice without censure from me. As much as I missed having her here, I know and understand that the day may soon be here when she has 2 families. So, that left just my youngest daughter to come spend the day with us. We so enjoyed having her with us. And the 2 of us planned to go ahead and get out the decorations anyway. But, as the day went on, I found myself finding excuses not to. I forced myself to put a smile on my face and help her dig them out. But even opening the boxes this year seemed to hold no joy. Unpacking each box usually is like opening Christmas joy every year. This time, all I felt was sadness. My youngest felt it too. It didn't take long to take out just a few of our favorite pieces; the nativity, my canister collection, the stockings to hang. Then, without really talking about it, we silently agreed - that was enough. No tree this year. Previously we had talked about putting it up at Christmas and leaving it up til my son comes home on leave in March. Then we talked about putting it up now, taking it down after Christmas, and maybe putting up a small one for him when he gets home. Which we may still do. But for now, it just won't happen. When my husband asked me about it (he and our son always go out to get it and put it up for us), I tried to explain my feelings. I don't know if he understands, but he told me that when I decide I'm ready for it, to let him know and he will put it up for me and help me decorate it.
Maybe it's because I know my son is so far away and missing being here. But I find myself missing my 'first' family more than ever. My mom, my sisters. They all live so far away and they all get together for the holidays and I know they are talking and laughing and enjoying the joy of the season. I can hear them all in my head, and I remember some of the laughter we have shared over the years and I find myself smiling or even laughing out loud. Then I remember years past of all my children together sharing holiday traditions and joy here at home or wherever we are. And again, I find myself smiling a little smile.
So even though I know it will be a lonely Christmas without all my loved ones here with me, I will try very hard to keep my memories close at heart, and find the joy of Christmas within them.
Christmas morning from last year - '09
still sleepy-eyed and in pajama's but all together and smiling.