It’s Christmas Eve, a night during which I still think I should be prepping to go to my grandparents’ house, then church. It’s been more than two decades since both of my dad’s parents, whom I considered the absolute King and Queen of Christmas, have been gone, and almost as long since I attended Midnight Mass. But instinct persists.
I still feel I should be hugging my cousins and eating turkey and ham sandwiches off of Grandma’s good china, forking big greedy mouthfuls of her famous potato salad with her beautiful silverware. Afterward, we should be stuffing our fists with sugar cookies while taking turns “playing Santa” — retrieving gifts from under the tree, checking tags, and delivering them into the hands of eager recipients, my grandpa holding court from his armchair.
My dad always sang in the choir (still does, blessedly), and Christmas songs were my favorite thing about church all year. Nestled into a pew, I could pick out my father’s deep baritone through the other rising voices and felt proud of how good he sounded anchoring the hymns. I’d lift my soprano voice to meet his during “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” hitting the high notes easily back then — before my range changed me to an alto — the ringing out bringing me to a communal, spiritual happiness.
Instead of this, tonight I’m sitting in the local pizzeria waiting for a large cheese pie, to take home and eat with my husband in front of the TV watching Elf. Don’t get me wrong: I love pizza and I could be entertained watching Will Ferrell brush his teeth. And I’ll enjoy hearing lovely Zoe Deschanel belt out “Baby it’s Cold Outside” while I hug my dogs on the couch. I know that overall I am lucky, and it will be fine.
But I was already reeling from having to cross off two names from my holiday card list last week because they died this year and then I started aching over my grandparents and long gone traditions. This season, I also always miss my big brother a little extra, whose absence at family gatherings in recent years is a constant reminder of what used to be. That was followed this afternoon by dropping off gifts and hugging friends who each lost a parent this year, and I said, “I hope your Christmas is OK,” as it seemed the only honest way to put it.
Then I got a text from my cousin while writing this post (can’t make this up). Her mom, my Aunt Madge, Joined the Angels this afternoon and is finally at Peace. I doubt my holiday card even made it to her in time.
So I’m not going to pretend that everything is joyful for everyone. But I’m going to try, try, try to appreciate what I do have instead of only thinking about what I don’t, and raise a glass to Aunt Madge.
For all of you out there — most of whom I know will also be missing someone for some reason — I hope your Christmas is OK, too.