Heartfelt Holidays


Personally, I’ve come across several people who groan (whether outwardly or internally) over the concept of Christmas decorations turning up in stores the minute Halloween is over, or who are resisting the urge to beat their brains out when Mariah Carey declares, “I don’t want a lot for Christmas…” Depending on my mood, I’m guilty myself.

Plus, when we reach a certain age, the holiday season means one thing-more work. Those of us that work any kind of retail job toe the line between being grateful for longer hours and thus better pay, and our dread of lost sleep, aching bodies, and belligerent customers or coworkers.

Those assigned the task of cooking holiday meals have endless facts and figures in their heads: When do I need to start defrosting the turkey or ham? How long will everything take to cook? How many portions of each item for how many guests?

Parents alternate between checking their kids’ wish lists and checking their bank accounts. Unfortunately, many of us have had to tighten our purse strings due to nationwide inflation.

Let’s face it-the holiday season is stressful.

But here’s the thing: lately, my family seems to be hit with one hardship after another. Over the past year and a half alone, we have lost sixteen loved ones; friends, family, and even pets have been taken from us through Covid, cancer, suicide, accidents and long illnesses. Financially, we scrape through one tragedy and then the next one hits us.

We’ve had to have the tough conversations several times. We have all picked up extra shifts at our jobs to make ends meet.

But as we sat around the Thanksgiving dinner table and played the “What are you thankful for?” game, I said, “I’m thankful that even though all this stuff keeps getting thrown at us, it only seems to have made us stronger. I’m thankful for our resilience.”

My mother said, “I’m thankful to have you and your dad to get through it all.” My dad stated, “I’m thankful that I’m still able to financially provide for my family, and that we are all together.”

I sat there and thought of all the times during my childhood and teenage years when my father would be deployed, and how my mother would still try to make my holidays special by baking, stringing up pretty lights and decorations, dancing me around the room to Christmas songs on the radio, walking around town by lantern light singing carols.

We either cooked ham or my Daddy’s crockpot roast while watching “White Christmas” and swooning over Bing Crosby’s dreamy voice. Money was tight, and we were separated, but Christmas was always Christmas; no matter what else happened over the course of the year, at Christmas, everyone sat down and they were kind, loving and calm.

As I’ve gotten older, especially these past few years, I have naturally felt dark thoughts creep in occasionally, as I’m sure many do.

We may be loath to admit it, but there are several times we sit numbly in our cars or cry in the shower. We hang on by the skin of our teeth or by a rapidly fraying thread.

I’m not sure how I’m going to afford gifts for my loved ones or even if we will all be together. But at the risk of sounding cliché, I close my eyes, take a deep breath and whisper, “Hold out until Christmas.” It gives me something to look forward to, to remind me that we are still here, still together even if we are physically apart.

So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to wear my cozy sweater, drive through neighborhoods marveling at sparkling Christmas decorations, and jam out to holiday songs on the radio. Because who couldn’t use a little bit of joy these days?