Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a bit more.
– The Grinch
It was, I think, always in the back of my mind as we started at Kartini, “What happens when we get to the holidays?” I kept shoving the thought away whenever it would pop up because we are working so hard on taking things one step at a time, but it was hard not to think about because to be honest, the holidays are my absolute favorite! As we got closer and closer to the end of October, with no clear end in sight, the more I thought about it. What would we do? How would we maneuver the changes I knew were coming? What would Thanksgiving and Christmas look like now? What about Eilidh’s birthday? So much of how we define and celebrate the holidays is wrapped up in food. The buying of it, the creating of it, the decorating of it. Not to mention the eating of it. All of these things Connor could no longer do. On top of that while most of our extended family is aware Connor is ill, they have no idea how ill, or what the illness is per his request.
An almost panic began to rise in me, as I tried to imagine just what kind of holiday season we would be having. I thought about all the traditions we would be giving up. Some of them ones we’d been practicing since I was a kid. The family gatherings, biscotti baking, cookie decorating, pie crafting…and then the new traditions we’d started with the kids. Making goodies to hand out to our neighbors, decorating gingerbread men and houses, our Christmas Eve box full of all kinds of treats to snack on while we read Christmas stories and watch Christmas movies. I mulled all of this over, as I knew other parents were also. It weighed heavily on us all. So much so that at one parent group just before Halloween we brought it up for discussion.
We asked the burning question, “How do we celebrate now?!” The conversation ranged from what kinds of foods our kids would be able to eat, to who should we invite to our meals, or how do we explain our absence at a meal. It was incredibly overwhelming until someone said, “It will be different absolutely, but maybe that’s not a bad thing.” From that point on I really started to examine our own celebrations and the more I did, the more I realized what I was going to miss the most about these traditions we had. It wasn’t the food really (except for pie maybe) that I mourned. It was the memories we’d made doing those things that I treasured. That was what I was going to miss. I mean yeah, the big family get togethers were always something I looked forward to, I love family celebrations. But I also love the stillness, and the quiet of our little celebrations at home. So it was comforting to picture a small quiet Thanksgiving and Christmas at our own home, not galavanting off somewhere hither and yon. It was easy to let go of that part. But the thought of the kids elbow deep in cookie decorations, or choosing just the right bag of treats for a friend. All snuggled up under a blanket with hot chocolate and popcorn while we watch Elf. That would be hard to leave behind.
I started operating under the idea of all of these changes being a good thing, a new set of traditions. Different, but no less meaningful. I rolled up my sleeves, pulled out my phone, and began to scour Pinterest for ideas. Simplicity was my aim. Our whole world is so complicated right now, and I felt (still do) the need to strip away some of the trimmings, and scale back on the frills. Less is more and all that. I have always found the simplest things to be the most beautiful. They would also be the least overwhelming for all of us. We sat Connor down and asked him what kind of Thanksgiving he’d like to have, who did he want to be there, what did he feel like eating, and so on. We planned it all out right down to the shiny metallic plastic silverware. In talking over the need to create new traditions with friends and family I stumbled across the idea of a book of thankfulness. I got really excited! I mean what better time to start such a tradition than now. At a time when we sometimes feel like we’re scouring for the good, for the light. When we so very badly need to focus on the things we’re thankful for because we’re knee deep in the mire. This idea paved the way for other ideas. Rather than cookies, we’ll mix up some clay and make ornaments, and maybe some bird feeders for the front yard. I have even come up with alternatives for our Christmas eve box.
There is a lot of talk around here about the “new normal” and often that term makes me cringe. How many new normals does this family have to go through (because this is not even close to being the first.) While I may not always like it, and may even be resistant to it, I have learned to accept it and make the best of it. Sometimes I even get lucky and yeah, it’s different, but not bad.