“So, tell me Christmas
Are we wise
To believe in things we never see
Are prayers just wishes in disguise
And are these wishes being granted me
To every prayer I’ve prayed
She’s coming home this
-From “This Christmas Day” by Trans-Siberian Orchestra
I met a friend for dinner tonight and when I got home the house was empty. Jim had taken the girls to Panera. I noticed that Ana had taped our holiday cards to the mantel in our dining room. It’s not a real mantel. It’s just a decorative shelf over a fake fireplace that’s supposed to look like a mantel. Every year I tape up the holiday cards we receive and it just looks really festive and it makes me feel really loved.
This year we have exactly three cards so far (and one of them is a blank card – the card Ana designed for the hospital). I guess everyone’s sending ecards these days. Even so, it made me happy to see that Ana did this all on her own. I started doing it because my mother did it. I realized that I actually succeeded in handing down a tradition without even trying. I really hope that actual paper cards aren’t completely extinct by the time Ana has kids of her own.
I guess I didn’t realize how attached I’ve gotten to Christmas until I saw those cards taped up. I’m Jewish. I mean 100% Russian/Polish Jew. We never had a Christmas tree or stockings or lights. We never discussed Santa. We weren’t religious. I have no attachment to the history and tradition surrounding Jewish holidays (Chanukah included). We had a menorah. We exchanged gifts. It was nice – not a big deal, you know. But I always wanted a Christmas tree and I finally got my first one a few years before Ana was born.
I love to decorate the tree. I love ornaments. I love stockings – I mean the whole idea of stocking stuffers is incredible. It never gets old for me. I love driving around and looking at people’s lit up houses (I have no idea how to hang exterior Christmas lights – we never did that when I was a kid and I can’t seem to convince Jim that it’s worth the trouble). If I knew how to do it, our house would look like the Griswalds’ at Christmas.
I think what I resent most about cancer’s invasion into our lives is that it’s robbing me of all the little traditions that I’ve carefully collected since I spent my first Christmas with Jim and his family 16 years ago. These traditions already feel fragile to me, like somehow they’re not really mine because Christmas can never really be mine. Do I have the right to complain?
My favorite tradition of all is watching the girls open their presents on Christmas morning. I mean, of COURSE it is! I don’t even look forward to getting presents anymore. What will I do when they grow up? I guess I’ll have to buy stuff for Jim. But this year we don’t know where we’ll be on Christmas morning. We can only hope we even get to have a Christmas morning. Even that feels selfish. I should be hopeful that Ana can finally get better – and she needs to have this surgery before that happens.
I try to tell myself it doesn’t matter. We’ll get through it and there’s always next Christmas. But the truth is that I’m hoping for Christmas morning at home. I’m going to fill the stockings. They’re going to overflow. I’ll take the damn things with me to the hospital if I have to.