Christmas was a day I was both looking forward to and dreading. Not because of family I didn’t want to spend time with, or because I dislike the holiday. I love my family, and love Christmas. But I’ve been followed by a lingering depression following Jerad’s death, and especially lately I’ve had more down moments than I was expecting. So I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.
The morning began early, as one might expect. I opened my eyes to find that my oldest son was wide awake. “It’s Christmas,” he whispered. “Let’s wake up [Little Kidlet].” I always loved Christmas at my Grandma’s house. The bedrooms are down a long hallway, and the living room has full length mirrors along one wall. So as you walk down the hallway, you can see the Christmas tree ahead as well as reflected in the mirror.
The boys raced into the living room, and the little one (still tired) hopped up on the couch. My oldest went straight for the stocking and toys under the tree. “What is this?” He looked at my mom. “No, really. What are these doing here? Is this mine?”
Santa brought them a real Buzz Lightyear and Woody. The Oldest Kidlet said that all he wanted from Santa was a real Buzz Lightyear. He was thrilled to see it, and surprisingly wasn’t too upset when his little brother decided that he wanted both toys for himself.
We opened the rest of our presents (I got some tart pans and mini muffin tins!), and after that I went into the kitchen to heat up the menudo my grandmother had brought, as well as make the cornbread mix that I’d bought. (Menudo: my family tradition, Cornbread & Cinnamon Rolls: The Boy’s family tradition) Suddenly, people were coming over and I was jumping right into making Christmas dinner.
I’ll make another post to summarize how that went, but I’ll just say this. The night before I’d said I was going to make the crusts for the mini quiches, and decided against it. That set me running a bit behind, but nobody seemed to mind. My aunts dropped by and helped my mom and me… and we were having fun.
I was a little frazzled, but as soon as I realized that nobody was upset… all that melted away. For the first time since Jerad died, I didn’t feel the weight of grief on me. People asked about him, and later in the night, I shared stories and talked bluntly about the pancreatitis being the reason why I was refusing glasses of wine (I think they were hoping I was pregnant). But I didn’t have to excuse myself afterwards, and find somewhere to be alone. I got to enjoy the company of my family and just enjoy the day.
As people were trickling out, my sister gave me a special gift. Something she’d thought to sneak into my stocking, but thought might not be a good idea. I could see it was a roll of something, and for a moment, I wondered if it was Lifesavers. My dad used to carry around lifesavers and would produce them when I was nervous or when I was sad. But the roll hit my hand with such a weight, and I knew just what it was. A roll of nickels.
A quick aside: I was one of Jerad’s Nickel People (my children were, too- he gave me a roll of nickels when each of them were born). As the story went, he had once given a nickel to a girl he was obsessed with and trying to break the ice was going to give her a penny for her thoughts. But all he had was a nickel. He would give her a nickel almost whenever he saw her.
It might not have worked to win her over, but it was something he continued to do for people who were special for him. (fin)
I know what a roll of nickels feels like, and I almost expected a wave of sadness. My sister did as well, and gave me a giant hug. And while she held on for quite some time… I didn’t need the hug. Though it was wonderful. It was such a thoughtful gesture on her part, and made me smile.
We also divided a package of Japanese candy (Crunky) that she’d bought for Jerad to try while she was in Japan, and thought that Christmas would be a good time to share it. Which it was. (For the record, Crunky seems to be similar to a Nestle Crunch bar- only it uses a good milk chocolate- not Nestle’s slightly waxy chocolate. But in taste, it reminded us all of the chocolate covered vanilla wafers- but if there was a single layer of the wafer inside.)
People left my grandma’s house, those who were staying went off to bed one by one. There we were, my mom and I, talking about everything and nothing as we always do.
And that’s when it hit me. I’d had a day without grief. Probably the best Christmas gift I could have received.