“Well there’s no place like home for the holidays…”
This used to be one of my favorite holiday songs. I related to it so well: if I wanted to be happy in a million ways, for the holidays I couldn’t beat home sweet home.
Then 2016 imploded and abruptly forced me to reconsider. I still enjoy the sentiment of “home for the holidays,” but it’s difficult to envelop myself in that concept while I’m still trying to define what “home for the holidays” means anymore.
Thanksgiving wasn’t so bad. In the midst of our cantina-style-family-and-friends-giving, there were enough people and enough Mexican-themed dishes to keep my mind off traditions. The pre-cancer Thanksgivings had ceased to exist well before 2016, so while one seat remained glaringly empty, it was only one (albeit mighty) change to deal with.
But then Thanksgiving was over. I started listening to Christmas music as soon as we left dinner (don’t judge me). We put up the tree. We reminisced about ornaments. I broke out the Christmas songbook and started playing carols on the piano. I made my husband move the FULLY DECORATED tree from one room to another (something my mom would have really gotten a kick out of). Some afternoons, in the twilight between work and dinner, I found myself gazing at our tree’s twinkling lights, reflecting on last Christmas, a Christmas full of so many “lasts,” and worrying about this Christmas, a Christmas full of so many “firsts.” The first Christmas not held at my parents’ house. The first Christmas my sister and I don’t visit the Hatchcover for a cheers to Baby Jesus. The first Christmas my mom won’t fuss around working to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves. The thoughts of holidays past quickly turned to thoughts of holidaze present.
That’s not to say our traditions have remained steadfast year after year. Even before cancer my parents had gotten lazy with the tree. They transitioned from a full-sized tree displayed in the front window to a four-foot impostor of a tree that sat on a table top across the room. We mourned our old tree. We mocked our new tree.
Then it didn’t matter anymore.
Last Christmas, I found my mom in her room crying shortly after we opened gifts. She was worried, as she was every year, that we didn’t like our gifts. “I just wanted this year to be special,” she sighed between her quiet tears. I think she already knew at that point.
As we move toward 2017, my holidaze continues as I think about all of the firsts still to come: events, celebrations, and stories that will all be missing something. Someone. But all of those firsts also offer an element of hope. We’re starting new family traditions, traditions that will create a new illustration of “home for the holidays.” And that’s OK. We’ll be OK. ‘Cuz no matter how far away I roam…turns out, wherever I am with family, I’m home.