I will always remember Christmas as being a happy time when I was a child. The lights, the Christmas tree, decorations, holiday carols. These all brought joy to my heart.
Growing up Catholic we observed the tradition of Advent. I found this to be special not only because this signified the countdown to Christmas but also because as the youngest child, I was assigned the task of lighting one candle on the wreath the first full week of Advent. In addition I quite enjoyed attending mass. Not so much for the readings or hearing the priest jabber at length about what he felt Christmas was and how we should behave but rather listening to the choir. A multitude of voices lifting on high. This was my connection to the ceremony.
I also recall being afraid to ask Father Christmas or Santa Claus or whomever you might call him, for what I truly wanted for Christmas. I cannot explain why to be totally honest. Perhaps self-consciously I felt guilty about requesting a gift or maybe I feared that what I wanted was out of the norm. Either reason be, I would find myself given very nice and thoughtful gifts but not what I truly wanted.
Growing up, holidays meant family time. This was not inclusive of just my immediate family but also included the aunties, uncles, cousins and grans. Usually the full family gatherings occurred the week between Christmas and the new year. I always cherished this as my favourite time of the holiday season.
However Christmas lost its sense of joy and exuberance the year my father passed away. It seemed as if we all made attempts to pretend my father’s death never occurred in order to keep some happiness in the holiday season. I remember crying myself to sleep that Christmas night. My holiday innocence was lost forever at that moment.
The following Christmas was worse. The vast hole my father’s death ripped in my heart grew larger. Maintaining any happiness became increasingly difficult. But I donned my happy facade in an effort to offer others the happiness that eluded me.
Year after year, the holidays remained a difficult time for me. But I made every attempt to seek out something that would offer some semblance of happiness. My attempts were not always successful but I did find myself enjoying this time a tiny bit more.
Then life threw me a curveball when my mother suffered a stroke from which she would never recover. That last Christmas with her will be ingrained in my memory until my last breath. We all knew it would be the last time we shared the holiday with her. I wanted to deny it and banish any such notions. But deep down I knew that I would never get to share in the joy of Christmas with her again.
I will always cherish the gift she gave me that year. Two photographs. One of my father when he was younger taken perhaps around the time they wed. The other of Mum in her wedding dress. This was the best gift she could have ever given me. You see, she gave me a final memory not only of herself, but my father as well, both in their prime.
The clock reads 12:11 A.M. on the 25th December. I find myself once again trying to capture a slight piece of happiness this holiday. While I am not alone I feel a sense of utter loneliness. I miss the days of full family holidays. I miss the sounds of the choirs raising their voices as one. Perhaps I slightly miss the priest rambling on about Christmas and what it should mean to us. I know I should be happy but deep down the feeling of solace creeps in. I do know the family members I am spending the holidays with will somehow unknowingly help me find the true Christmas spirit I once owned.
I will not give up the battle of uncovering a small semblance of that childhood innocence from years past. I know I am deserving of that. We all are.
I wish I could ask Father Christmas for what I really want for Christmas. What would i ask of him? To fill the vacancy in my heart with the love of my parents that has been lost. Since that is not a reality, my Christmas wish is that each and every one of you find joy this holiday season. Then hold tight to that joy with all of your might and never let go.
Happy holidays to you and yours.