Last Christmas, I had almost the entire month of December off from work to get ready for the holiday. I spent most of that month curled up on my couch wrapped up in a blanket battling depression and exhaustion with a self-designed cure of hot tea and touching movies with happy endings. I also started going to therapy for the first time in my life, struggling with my inner sense of privacy for weeks before finally opening up to the therapist about the various things that had landed me on her couch.
I still owe that therapist $100 that I haven’t been able to send to her since the move, mostly because it turns out that visits I thought were covered 100% under the Employee Assistance Program weren’t so she sent a retroactive bill right as we were packing up our last boxes to move across the country. I should really find the money somehow, because she did help a lot, even if she wasn’t necessarily the best match for me as a therapist. It’s a tight enough Christmas as it is though, so I’m likelier to do a little shopping for my family if Sabs miraculously gets a bonus from work.
Last Christmas, I spent time organizing our apartment, making it as homey as I could and finishing up all the trailing tasks of settling in that I hadn’t been able to in the hectic rush to leave the townhouse we were kicked out of in October. I unpacked boxes, I cleaned, I folded, I decorated and made the place as tidy as possible for when I went back to work and things got crazy again.
Last Christmas I cuddled my children a lot in the afternoon after picking them up from their relative daycares, we played games and acted silly and decorated our tree and baked. That was perhaps some of the best therapy ever, all that positive time with my kids. We started a good bedtime routine in December and that turned into easier bedtimes later in the year. We all loved their bathtub in that apartment, it was oval and huge, meant to be the master bathtub, but so conducive to bathing two active little boys instead. I’d sit in the bathroom doorway and watch them have massive water battles, safe from getting wet myself until it was time to wade in and break up the festivities to dry them off with warm fluffy towels, get them into their pajamas and tuck them into bed.
Last Christmas, I mourned the loss of my dear friend and co-worker Carol, who died suddenly on the 24th of November just days after Thanksgiving and our move. This year when that anniversary came around I was on the road in the back of our mini-van, driving north to visit my own grandmother, but I thought of Carol who had been like a surrogate grandmother to my children while we lived in California. Last year the grief was sharp and hard to escape, this year it’s a gentle reminder that sneaks in every now and then as I walk to pick up Julien from his new school, or sift through the kids’ toys to arrange the new playroom and find the bendable Mickey Mouse she gave Julien from her desk, or the stuffed lamb she brought for Vic one Easter. This year I mourn the fact that I do not have a picture of her to share with my children, that they will likely not remember the kind woman who brought them little presents and helped them to get home so many times when the weather was bad, because their mother doesn’t drive. I will try again to get one from my former employer, so I can bring it out at times and tell my boys about Carol, her kind heart, her gruff way of speaking and share some of the stories she told me about growing up in rural California in 50s and 60s.
Last Christmas I let go of a lot of things, made my peace with them and made a decision that it was time to leave California and come back ‘home’ to the East Coast. This year, we’ve made that resolution a reality and I’m sitting in our rental house in my ‘hometown’ preparing for a low-key Christmas with my family. Things have changed immeasurably and at the same time, not at all. The constants are still the closeness between all of us, the ties that bind, the love we share in spite of the difficulties we’ve faced, the new ones that we have to tackle. I’ve had struggles here that I didn’t expect, things that were more difficult than I thought they’d be. We’re still hanging on, keeping our heads above water, letting hope keep us afloat.