I haven’t written much the last couple of weeks. The holiday’s exhausted me – in a wonderfully joyful way. This is the third Christmas I have spent without my mom. It was the first Christmas that I was able to embrace as my own.
The last three years we have hosted Christmas, in one form or another at my house. There are many reasons. New babies, pregnancy, having my babies wake up in their own beds and discover Santa in their own home. But mostly because being in my mom’s home, without my mom, on Christmas is something I’m just not strong enough to face yet. Too many memories. Too many ghosts.
Creating Christmas in my house was hard the first two years. Emotionally draining. I did it with a heavy heart. Smiles hiding the tears that bubbled up to the surface and spilled too often.
The hardest part for me? Cooking! And I love to cook. But while my mom opened her home to many over the holidays, the kitchen was our space. A place where the two of us fell into a rhythm creating the familiar dishes that filled our dining room table year after year and experimenting with one or two new additions to keep things fresh.
The last few years I have found myself in the kitchen alone. Cooking the dishes I no longer need a recipe for because they are ingrained in my head and heart. Those first two years I was consumed with the loneliness. Hated the solitude. Resented every moment I spent in the kitchen.
This year there was a shift. Don’t get me wrong – I still missed my mom every minute. I still wished she was standing across the kitchen from me slicing onions. But I also found peace in the routine. Comfort in creating the dishes my mom served year after year. A sense of continuity bringing them forward into the new Christmas we have begun to create.
A Christmas where my home and table welcome good friends to share a holiday meal with my family much like my mom’s always did. A Christmas where I snuggle up with my boys in Christmas PJs and listen to Nani and Poppi’s voices read “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” A Christmas where mommy and daddy and uncle Joe Joe spend hours drinking and building toys while Grandpa looks on remembering the nights he spent doing the same thing. A Christmas filled with bleary eyed boys stumbling from their rooms on Christmas morning to see what Santa left under their tree. A Christmas that is my own, but shares the warmth and love and comfort of my mom’s.
I hope one day I’ll be able to face the ghosts of Christmas in NJ. But for now, I’m going to enjoy the the peace I am finding in the Christmas Matt and I have created and claim a small victory.