Dear Lit Loves,
Lord. Help. Me. Please. I honestly have not put up and decorated a Christmas tree in three years. When my father died I just could not muster any joy. Thanksgivings since his death have been held with my mom, my husband and my brother at my childhood home in a small North Carolina town that you would miss if you blinked an eye at just the right moment. We lit a candle at his place setting while sitting around the dining room table for the big turkey day meal. It was more quiet than usual. Conversation around the table consisted of complementing the food, chat about the weather and all of us swallowing hard trying our best to be thankful for what we still had left without my jovial father who never was without a curious subject of conversation. He always kept us laughing even if someone brought up politics during the Thanksgiving meal. During the past two years after the Thanksgiving traditional meal, we would all clean the kitchen, pile into my mom's sedan and make the drive to the cemetery to pay our respects to dad.
I have driven home for the past two Thanksgivings trying to see the road and cars through a fountain of tears. I still don't understand why God, Christ or whoever the higher power in this world is would take my father from our family when he was the thread that weaved us all together and kept us emotionally strong. It was gut-wrenching to then see folks running about acting all holly and jolly. I just could not muster any joy whatsoever. I would gladly walk through the mall and shout, "It Most Certainly Is Not The Most Wonderful Freaking Time Of The Year!" The holiday season appeared to bring out the worst in people: trampling over one another in search of Black Friday deals; getting into shouting matches over parking spaces at the malls or grocery stores; complaining about being forced to spend time with various family members; having packages stolen from the trunk of your car or front porch, getting injured while attempting to decorate furiously in order to be anointed the house in the neighborhood with the most incredible light display, and to top it all, I was almost taken out completely in the post office crosswalk by a driver who was incensed at the amount of time she had to wait to mail packages. Don't make me want to go all "Atomic Blonde" on you dear people of North Carolina. I am trying to maintain my composure, but even I have my limits. I'm not sure I have the strength or stomach for another holiday season, folks.
And then my husband and I bought a house last year for Christmas. We had just moved back to North Carolina six months before my father died and had been residing in a less than optimal apartment. (The recycling dump was just steps away from our apartment door, water was leaking down the walls toward electrical outlets, and then the water in the tub one day turned brown and appeared as if it came from a septic system, but it actually was because the water heater was nearly 19 years old and the apartment manager refused to replace it until I turned him in to the city water commissioner). This red-head knows the laws of the land mister and I'm not afraid to blow the whistle and have someone cited for negligence. Naturally, I was more than thrilled to be moving into a real home once again and being a stone's throw away from my favorite place: UNC-Chapel Hill.
This year I truly wanted to just not attempt anything for Thanksgiving except maybe a movie marathon with my husband. He asked me to think about us hosting Thanksgiving here at our new home. He offered to cook the entire meal as well. I thought it might be a good change so with a great amount of coaxing and reassurance, I consented. We hosted Thanksgiving at our new home. I must say it was a definite change, but we had brought the family together and the appetizers, meal and dessert included a contribution from each of my family members. Whew.
And now I face the Christmas holiday. I have yet to know whether I can summon the courage and effort to trim our artificial Christmas tree with ornaments I have collected since birth. Since my old holiday wreath was destroyed by movers with little respect for our belongings, I did go with my husband and purchase a pre-lit wreath for the front door of our new home. In addition we purchased artificial holiday pre-lit candles to place on the window sills throughout the house. I still have not summoned enough bravery and gumption to go through our home storage area and locate our Christmas tree. And for the past three days I have watched as my neighbors practically turn their homes into what appears to be the home of a sugarplum fairy, the gingerbread man and quite possibly Santa's North Pole headquarters. Honestly, if my mail arrives after the sun goes down, I don my sunglasses to walk to the mail center lest I be blinded by the virtual amusement parks surrounding my home. And one home has some sort of speaker system blasting holiday music. As I look around at what appears to be a Fourth of July fireworks spectacle in December, I can't help but remember my motto when it comes to holiday decorating: Be Classy Not Trashy. Meanwhile, my goal for this week is to attempt to locate our artificial tree in the storage area of our home. I haven't seen it in three years so I hope it survived the move as well as the movers. I am not out to create a virtual winter wonderland on the outside of my home or win some ridiculous home decorating contest. I simply want to find enough joy in my soul to encourage me in my efforts to decorate a Christmas tree with ornaments given to me by good people from my past and present. I simply want to know if I will ever find the peace I used to obtain when I trimmed the Christmas tree and if I will ever once again find joy in celebrating Christmas in my own simple, low-key way.