This year I've decided I'm not doing Christmas.
Not at all.
Officially I am removing myself from this holiday.
Seems weird and grinchy and all those other things, I know, but I have a few perfectly good reasons.
It started about 10 years ago when my super sweet boyfriend became the first boyfriend any of us girls had dated to come to a family holiday. And before you roll your eyes at that one, remember that I come from a family with four sisters so this was no small accomplishment. I'd jokingly throw in that my dad was lurking near the door with a shotgun only it's not really a joke.
Craig was charming and funny and perfect. I proudly paraded him around like some sort of prize turkey.
He never missed a Christmas after that.
Until last year.
To say it was the hardest holiday of my life would be a gross understatement. Throw in some insane family drama and hitting a deer Christmas morning and I think you've found the cause of my hair falling out (please God let me not be bald by the time I'm 30).
There is something about this holiday that has the ability to kick you in the gut emotionally like nothing else.
Maybe it's the sappy Christmas tunes (which, yes, I used to love singing off-key as loud as I could with Craig in the kitchen) or the excess of booze removing the filter ability we normaly work with every day (hello holiday egg nog!) or perhaps it's the constant smell of baked goods drawing us back into warm and fuzzy childhood moments. Whatever the reason, this holiday manages to sucker punch you on all five senses.
This year my family is heading out of town which certainly casts an additional "lonely" glow but, in truth, I know it's really all about Craig for me.
The first carol I heard on the radio a few days ago (yes, a miracle, but I've been avoiding those Christmas carol playing stations like the plague knowing it would come to this - only upbeat pop garbage for me!) I got hit with a wave of nostalgia so strong I just about had to pull over. Since I was in the middle of rush hour traffic I opted for sobbing like a lunatic instead (no tissues in the car made for one dribbling mess).
I hate that Christmas used to be my favourite holiday. I would nag Craig from about August onwards about putting up the tree. Normally he'd throw his hands in the air in disgust sometime around mid-November and finally relent. I would always start my Christmas shopping in September and Craig and I would waste hours on overly-detailed wish lists and fantasty purchases. Christmas baking was done weeks in advance and definitely added to my traditional 'holiday 10' with the overabundance I'd prepare (normally gifted to any and every family member I could find).
We'd watch every holiday movie under the sun, curled up on the couch in blankets drinking eggnog with the tree all lit up. We even had a tradition of buying a new ornament every year to commemorate whatever big event happened for us that year - when we got married it was a shell ornament from Maui, when we got Pocket it was a little kitty.
Last year I took the dried flowers from the funeral and strung them up in glass baubles.
They weren't really all that festive.
And of course there was the fire channel. A favourite of Craig's that drove me around the bend. He'd always want to put it on and I'd always holler at him to quit being so cheap and just buy a real damn fireplace. I'd rather be watching the Simpsons. A couple months after his death I was going through his things and found a video tape labeled "Craig's Hot Video". Naturally I was horrified figuring it was something illicit I'd rather not see. Naturally this made me want to watch it more. Two and half hours of the fire channel, taped through his VCR. Presumably so he could rewatch it all year round. I cried for three days. I'd have given anything to see him siting on the couch, watching it again. I promise this time I'd let him.
These are just a few of the thousand tiny moments that made Christmas for me. There were others, just as sweet or just as sad. All perfect. Opening special gifts, laughter, fighting over the remote, teaching our sisters how to play Mario brothers, lying on the floor to play trucks with our nephew... the list goes on and on and on.
Only every single part of Christmas doesn't feel like much of a celebration to me anymore.
It feels like a painful, heavy reminder of what I had and what is now gone.
It makes missing him unbearable.
It doesn't feel light and happy to me. It feels heavy and sad.
You could argue that these are things we need to face, to move on, to come to grips with it. That hiding from a holiday is hardly the grown-up approach.
The thing is, I'm not sure I can.
Even if I could, I'm not sure I'd want to.
I don't feel like pretending to be festive when I'm not. I hate the idea of forgetting all these special moments. It is suffocating to pretend that nothing has happend, when it has. To act like nobody is missing, when they are.
That, to me, feels like the greater injustice.