This Christmas I realized something… there are a lot of leftover feelings and memories that cloud the holidays for me. Melancholy falls on me as Christmas approaches and shift my experience, as hard as I try to surround myself with merriment and new memories.
As a child and well into my twenties, Christmas was the big day— a day when my cousins, my aunts and uncles, my mother and my siblings all gathered together to share a beautiful holiday. There were personalities abounding, wonderful food, great times and difficult times, but we all loved each other and Christmas was filled with joy.
Over the years we have moved in different directions, emotionally and geographically. The reasons are many and complex, as is the case in so many families. Several of the people who were a part of my Christmases past have died, my mother last December. This was my first Christmas without her—the first Christmas ever without any of my biological family here. It was particularly difficult on many levels, even though I had a wonderful time with good friends, who have become much like family.
It was impossible not to think of Mom most of the weekend and all day Christmas. She loved Christmas. Yet this Christmas as I sat alone in my living room, carols on the stereo and the lights giving a beautiful glow to the room, I felt more like my mother than I’ve ever felt. I listened to the music and thought of her. I thought of the family I don’t see (much) of anymore, the family who I don’t see enough of, the friends who fill the whole. And the melancholy descended. I sat quietly in the room, surrounded by the beautiful tree and I missed what is gone; I missed what used to be; I missed what should or might be—what isn’t. As I did this, I suddenly felt like I understood something about my mother that I’d never got at the time.
When I saw her sit alone by the tree each year, staring off at the lights, I believed that she was just enjoying the music, spending a moment of holiday quiet. As I sat there the other day however, I realized that she too felt melancholy. I now recognize the look that escaped me then. She was thinking of her past, perhaps remembering us when we were little, just as I now reflect on my own (mostly) grown children. She was hoping to understand her children better as they got older, and wishing to forge good relationships with them. She was wondering how to fix things with her siblings. She was remembering things that are gone, and hoping for new and positive ways to move past the things she regretted.
I think that Christmas is a mixed bag for a lot of people, and I am one of them. The lights, the smells, the food, the music, the music, the music all around—all of these things are what make Christmas so special each year. These things are also the very things that take me back through time and turn my thoughts inside out. So I go to the refrigerator and I dig around amongst the piles of ham, and scalloped potatoes, and pies and I begin to move through the leftovers.
What comes up for you at Christmas? Is it always cheery and bright, or do you feel a little melancholy too? Share your thoughts; share this post, and if it touched you, please take a minute to hit Like.