Saturday, December 24, 2011
Ghosts of Christmas Past by mommy Jess
As you may remember, last year Jack had a sweet altruistic understanding of Christmas that somehow allowed Santa to act as not only a toy distributor but a miracle worker as well:
This year, remembering fondly his Christmas wish from last year, I asked him whether he thought Santa would still “fix” Greta. He sighed with the impatience of a teenager and said “No Mom, I know Greta is broken forever” you could almost hear the implied “duh” dangling at the end of this proclamation.
And just like that, in the course of a year, he’d gone from blindly optimistic to realistically jaded. The transition from 4 to 5 has been marked by changes big and small, and this was further proof that time marches on whether you want it to or not. After all, he’s been through a cross country move, starting kindergarten, and witnessed countless overheard conversations about therapists, doctors, insurance, and far too many pleas of “Jack please go play I’m busy!” this year. Too many days of picking him up from school with red-rimmed eyes, too many ruined family outings, and too many run-ins with the cruelty of small children has produced a harder Jack. One who still hoists Greta out of the snow where she’s gotten stuck but one who keeps an eye on the places he’d rather be going.
Can’t say I blame him or even mourn this change, it was something I understood as inevitable. This comes with growing up. Every year a little more magic will be lost only to be replaced with reality, which let’s be honest is never as good. And what would be the alternative? So many times I hear about children who faked believing in Santa long after they knew the truth in an effort to spare their parents sadness at the realization they had grown up. I never wanted that for Jack, he needs room to grow and my feelings, however fragile, shouldn’t be his concern.
And yet, there is still part of me that longs for the pure innocence of his second Christmas when I awoke at 5am to fill 25 helium balloons of red and green to festoon his presents just so I could hear him shout “balloons balloons!” over and over. And of course I still smile remembering his third Christmas when it took him till noon to open his gifts so intent was he at examining each trinket and treasure. That same year we hung 5 stockings, two representing the spinning and swirling babies in my belly, and allowed our pupils to dilate at the visual representation of our soon-to-be family of five.
But my smile fades and my eyes grow dark when I remember the next Christmas, when we masked our fears and doubts about Greta with spiked eggnog and sugar cookies both of us knowing something ugly was lurking in our future. And the following year when we attended the holiday party for the local social service agency that housed the early intervention program that had become such an encompassing part of Greta’s life. Where Jack won the “super sib” award for being such a good big brother to his disabled sister, Greta danced in her clunky leg braces to “festive” renditions of Jingle Bells, Gus cried from all the commotion, and our hearts broke in ways we never imagined possible.
And now, this year, even in a new state, in a new part of the country I can’t escape these ghosts of Christmas past. Since I haven’t yet reached Scrooge level and been blessed by a visit from the ghost of Christmas future I’ll stick to the present where I can happily report that the Christmas machine is well underway in our house. Our elf (yes, we have tricked our children into believing in Santa’s version of big brother), Neil, keeps watch as I wrap presents well into the night once the kids have fallen asleep. Mommy Shana and I have had several interesting discussions about the intricacies of toy assembly and I can say, with honest cheer, that our kids LOVE Christmas.
So happy holidays to all of you dear readers, whether it is Christmas you celebrate or Winter Solstice, New Year’s, or Chanukah or all of the above. We all deserve some kind of celebration even if only to acknowledge the survival of yet another year. Me, I’ll keep making the same Christmas wish year after year, for peace. Peace for you, peace for me, peace for the world and peace for everyone. Maybe one day it will come true.