During a difficult week this fall, we were talking about the holidays and Christmas and he said, seriously, "frankly, I have enough good memories stored up. I don't need news ones when it comes to Christmas." He smiled and laughed. (Framily Coping Mechanism: most serious thing are followed by laughing.) There are very few things that he could say that would surprise me, but this was one. We are both fixers by nature but this was one thing he had decided that didn't need fixing right now. We were going to just get through and stop trying to romanticize or idealize anything besides the hard work of getting through.
Break started two days early this year thanks to snow and the ice that followed. That made the entire holiday 19 days long. The boys are always very happy to be together during the first few hours or days of any break. Then, like that first college roommate destined to be your soulmate until you realize that one of you may not live to see the end of the semester, things usually turn decidedly darker a few days in. The small food program that I administer in our school depends on the doors being open, and so those two days had me calling and texting parents and teachers and eventually driving through the neighborhood delivering holiday bags to our families. I brought four of the kids with me which was probably a mistake and most certainly sucked most of the joy from the task. It is the one of the best things I do in my life on a purely selfish level– I feel good and I think it helps in very small and imperfect ways. By that Sunday, I had landed myself in a dental predicament that had me laid out for the week requiring several interventions and many trips to the pharmacy. On Christmas Eve I moved myself off of the couch, vacuumed the living room and cooked a big meal for the eight of us. A teacher from the boys' school unexpectedly and blessedly dropped off a pound cake he had made and the sisters across the street called us to come pick up a cookie plate. This would be the extent of the pre-Christmas baking. I stuck to the mashed potatoes. On Christmas morning we ate cinnamon rolls popped from the can and bacon and the kids opened up their gifts. In the afternoon, the big boys went on a bike ride and the little people headed out with our neighbors to see a movie. I made pots of soup and bread and our friends came over for the evening.
The grief of the holiday-away-from-family for the boys was not as acute as I had expected. There was relative peace.
I realize that we had lowered our expectations to barely registering and then gone still lower. We had not gotten a tree. Somehow not having another human sized thing that required care and shed it's stuff everywhere seemed like the right move. I briefly thought we would miss it, but only visitors noticed. We put lights up and some decorations. Snow days had canceled what few holiday commitments we had, and my exploding teeth had canceled what little else we had planned. There were gifts– but mostly things that the kids needed. This was not the Christmas Magic I anticipated giving my children. This was not magical at all. This was just fine.
I do not know what this year will bring. I'm worried. We sorted out what our family was going to look like for us in 2016. That could change abruptly (or not) this year. The hard work of just "getting through" may undo more relationships. The hard work of resisting in the face of racist systems and policies and people may undo even more. "Happy New Year" doesn't seem so fitting at the moment, but it's what we have and so I'm passing it on to you with all the hope and kindness I can muster. I'm wishing you all Relative Peace and the Fierce Resistance, Friends. Happy New Year.