It is the time of year I begin to live vicariously through other people’s celebration of the holidays. It has been a few years since we have decked the halls in my brother’s house. Living with a special needs child has some drawbacks when decorating for the holidays. Anyone who knows or lives with a child with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) can tell you the difficulties of making changes in the child’s environment. They do not like changes of any kind and when you start putting up trees with bright glittery ornaments and lights it can cause them to become over-stimulated and in our house that leads to anarchy.
It was easier when my Mom had her apartment because she loved to decorate for Christmas and collected nativity sets, so there was one set up on every table in the place. She also collected angels but those stayed up year-round unless they were specifically Christmas angels. She usually had one big one and a few small ones. Surprising enough, she never had a treetop angel. Our family almost always went with a star for the tree. Anyhow when I needed a Christmas fix I would just go to Mom’s to soak up her festive vibe. This Christmas just hasn’t felt like it because with Mom gone I am reduced to going and visiting stores and we all know that isn’t the place to soak up feel good, joy on Earth, goodwill to men vibe.
Growing up poor meant not a lot of presents. It was the time of year that no matter how bad our finances may have been my parents always made sure that we had a tree with some old and new ornaments, tinsel, and garland. I remember Dad getting out the lights and stringing them through the house so he could make sure that they all lit up before going on the tree. The three of us kids were part of his lighting crew. We would crawl up and down the green wire looking for burnt-out bulbs and when we found one we would call for Dad. As we grew older we were allowed to remove the bulb but only after we had been instructed for what seemed like forever on the proper removal of said bulb. Dad had a touch of OCD when it came to anything electrical. Once he approved, the lights were hung and Christmas had officially begun. We almost always put our tree up after stuffing ourselves on Thanksgiving dinner.
My Dad had a love/hate relationship with Christmas. The holidays usually meant more work for him but it was also the time of year that customers tip their service workers. Those tips are what bought our gifts. If it was a bad year for tips, then there was little under our tree. I saw more than one year go by that my Dad would sell his car to make sure his kids had Christmas gifts and a good Christmas dinner. Come the new year when bonuses were handed out he would buy back his car from whomever he had sold it too. He always made that deal with the buyer. As children, we just knew that we at least would have one present under the tree that said it came from Santa (Mom & Dad). It was also the one day that we got to spend all day with our Dad because he was off work. For me and my brothers that was the best gift of all.
To this day whenever I hear sleigh bells, I think of my Dad. I have no idea where he got a string of sleigh bells but one of my earliest memories of Christmas is waking in the middle of the night( or what I thought was the middle of the night), to the sound of Santa’s sleigh bells. The next morning I would get up and there would be a mound of presents under the tree. I remember asking Mom about the bells and she would tell me I must have heard Santa on the roof. The truth of course was it was Dad out on the front porch, adding sound effects to make his kid’s Christmas more magical. I always intended to do that for my future kids, I just never got the chance.
This year I have been finding it doubly hard to get into the spirit. I have always made cookies and candies during the month but this year I just don’t feel like it. I sit down and plan a menu for our big family dinner but not this year. I don’t even want to cook it. The closest I have come to be in the mood is filling out the few Christmas cards I send out. Here it is the week before the blessed holiday and I just finished with my cards. Part of me wants to go out to the garage and un-earth Mom’s nativity scenes; the other part isn’t ready for the memories that will undoubtedly come from this exercise. Better to leave them wrapped up in the newspaper, maybe next year. Maybe next year has become my mantra for this one. Maybe next year, I will have a place of my own and can decorate and celebrate, just not this year.
I honestly didn’t think the holidays would affect me so adversely this year but apparently, I was wrong. Add to it that I have been sick since the beginning of November and the end of the year is taking no prisoners. Does anyone else feel like this year just needs to end? Hopefully a new year, and a new decade will bring better things for all of us. Two more weeks to finish any old business before the new year brings in a whole new list of to-dos. Feel free to comment on how your holidays are progressing. Maybe I can live vicariously through your celebration. Until next year I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Remember love fully and laugh often.