Our First Christmas
Driveway and yard filled with cars. Smoke coming from the grills under the carport. The Christmas tree and the mountain of presents overwhelmed the living room as usual. Four different kinds of dip, chips, sliders, sausage balls, desserts and drinks covered the kitchen counter. Three generations under one roof. The sound of two new additions cooing and crying. A 30-year tradition but two things are different. You and those ugly sweaters.
It's funny...I didn't think about it until I began writing but we managed to take two ugly things and make them amazing. Maybe none of my family will say it but because I'm the blunt one, I will. I really wanted to just skip it. I wanted to just let Christmas go by and not acknowledge it or our family tradition. Now, I wouldn't have faulted anyone that celebrated or enjoyed it but I wanted to skip it. I wasn't interested and I wasn't happy about it. Life goes on you say. Remember the good times you say. She's here in spirit you say. Pssssst....guess what?? I so didn't care about that. It doesn't make anyone feel better when they're spending their first holidays without a loved one. So yes, selfish or not..I wanted to skip it. Firsts are supposed to be exciting. They are supposed to be filled with anticipation and joy. Not this one, not this first.
I had to deal with my feelings, accept that skipping it wasn't an option, and carry on. My uncle informed us during Thanksgiving that we would be wearing ugly sweaters during our Christmas Eve celebration. Ok we said. That will be a nice distraction.... I guess. Thanksgiving passed and Christmas began its rapid descent onto our family. I know we all found ways to distract ourselves from it. Christmas shopping, not talking about it, the new baby boys in our family, work, or whatever it was. I just knew it was coming and I still wasn’t ready. December 24th…the day I used to anticipate was now one of the days I dreaded in 2016. I took a deep breath, picked up ugly sweaters for me and my daughter, popped two of my Confianza, gave my mom two, and we headed to my aunt’s house. Driveway and yard filled with cars. Everyone sitting around inside and outside talking, laughing, preparing the snacks, playing with the babies…. everyone but her. During the events, I felt something take my breath. This isn’t the way this was supposed to be. It’s our family tradition but it was always centered around her. She would smile as her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren would open their gifts because she knew hers, the big one was on the way.
This time, there was no big gift. There weren’t any jokes about us not getting her anything and her telling us to stop playing with her and to bring her her gift lol. This time, we opened presents one by one and focused on the array of EXTREMELY ugly sweaters that filled the room. Was it hard? Yes. Did we shed tears that night? Of course. Were some more distant and somber than others? It was to be expected. But what we did despite it, I know she would have been proud. I know she was looking down, smiling and saying…look at my family. We did it, we made it, and we survived it. Our first Christmas without her. The torch has been passed. There has been a changing of the guard. We survived a year of firsts. We are learning to walk again. We are learning to live without her. Whoever said it would be easy lied but I’m grateful for my family. We learned from the matriarch, the boss, our Florence Ella, our MeMe. This is her legacy. This is her life’s work. Our First Christmas……