Dear Mr. Grinch,
I get it after all.
Why you, why some people simply hate Christmas. It all makes sense now.
I’ve never been one of you. I may have been an elf in a former life, or a Who at least. I love the lights, ornaments, carefully picking out presents, writing Christmas cards, hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows. If it was up to me, I’d be celebrating Christmas all year.
Not just because of these little things I just listed of course, also because – most importantly – Christmas is about spending time with people you love. And I suppose that’s where it gets complicated, unbearable even, for some of us.
This had never occurred to me until one particular conversation with a colleague some time ago.
Me: Aren’t you looking forward to Christmas, too? It’s my favorite time of the year!
Me: … oh … how come?
Her: My father passed away on Christmas.
Me: Oh, I’m sorry … then that’s understandable of course …
The thing is, though, I didn’t really get it. I just thought I did. Besides, it was the only reply I could think of that made a little sense when someone tells you something awful like this.
Two days ago I got a phone call. It was my dad. I’d just sent him a picture of the heap of Christmas cookies I’d been making with my roommates. There’s no way on earth I could have seen it coming.
His voice gave him away immediately, though: shaky and sort of muffled. I felt my heart sink, right past my stomach, down to the very tip of my toes. Your dad isn’t supposed to call you in a shaky and muffled voice. If anyone, it should be your mom. My dad doesn’t give hugs unless he’s forced to. He’s a practical man down to his very core. When my sister told him she was pregnant (sort of a little too young, sort of not at the right time), he just shrugged and said: Things happen. He doesn’t f***ing talk like this unless something’s really wrong. And it was.
A death in the family or within your closest group of friends always feels like a smack in the face. This one felt like being punched with a crowbar. I sat down and mumbled something along the lines of I can’t believe it, this is terrible, I don’t know what to say. Then my mom took over the phone because, clearly, my dad was in no shape to continue this conversation; especially with me being the eloquent dialog partner that I was at this very moment.
I spent the rest of the night sorting through all sorts of emotions, fairly unsuccessful. I was trying to come up with a brilliant message to send to my sister, because this terrible piece of news hit much closer to her home. I didn’t want to call her because if I could’t come up with a couple of words in writing, how was I supposed to say something remotely resembling a sentence. It took me hours and the words still felt inadequate and silly and unhelpful. I sent the message anyways because I wanted her to know that I was thinking about her. Because I was, all night.
I still am. I’m thinking about her and her husband who’ve been through so much already. I’m thinking about my two wonderful nephews, in particular the older one of the two, who’s already had so many losses to claim in his short life that it’s breaking my heart whenever I think about it. I’m thinking about my dad’s voice. I’m thinking and thinking and it all seems so horrifying that at times I catch myself wondering whether none of this has actually happened and it’s all just a terrible nightmare.
I’m thinking and thinking –
and I get it.
At the same time, I don’t feel like it. I still love Christmas. I’m dreading this year’s holidays but I’m hoping they’re going to be like a little break from the days filled with grief, confusion and anger that are lying ahead.
This is not an anti-Christmas manifesto. If anything, I hope it’s a reminder for all of you to be grateful for your family and friends, a reminder to let them know how much you care (more often, we should tell each other every single day), a reminder to be there for each other, especially during the hard times.
Have a wonderful Christmas filled with laughter and love
This morning I woke up to the lovely smell of – no, not coffee – burnt food. Last night’s dinner to be precise. I haven’t burnt food in approximately ten years. I’m a quite alright cook, I think. So far, I’ve fed a lot of people with my cooking and no one has ever died or complained (at least not to my knowledge).
So last night, I invited a friend for dinner and we had just started preparing the food when another friend of mine dropped by to show me her new — puppy!!! (Excitement!) Needless to say: I got distracted. Very. We went outside to play with little Millie (little distracting furry lovable puppy girl’s name) and when we came back we had to fumble our way from entrance to kitchen through a thick curtain of smoke. The good news: Now I know for sure that my smoke detector works just fine. Comforting knowledge, I think.
After clearing out as much of the smoke (and smell) as possible, we tried to rescue dinner the best we could. In the end, we didn’t starve. All was (fairly) well in Whoville. Yet, I felt a bit foolish the entire night. In fact, I still am. It’s one of these I-should-have-known-better-moments. Also, I feel mildly haunted because of the smell. Lesson learnt: Don’t play with fire – or better: Don’t play with dogs while you’re cooking with fire.
I’ve been having a couple of these I-should-have-known-better-moments lately. Usually it’s not that I burn food – I burn myself. Mostly, because I tend to underestimate things. Such as the amount of time rice takes to cook — and burn. Or the stubborn will of feelings – paired with their reluctance to negotiate on a reasonable level. Unfortunately, the latter can’t be fixed simply by airing.
I’m never sure if something’s worth holding on to, but when in doubt, I usually do. I hold on and hope. Until the number of burn blisters seems too much to take, even for me. It’s probably because to me what’s even worse than these annoying I-should-have-known-better-moments are the what-ifs. I’d rather spend some time cleaning up a bit of mess than wondering whether I should have kept fighting. Knowing that at least I tried always helps me deal with whatever it is that I can’t change. Message hidden between the lines: Sometimes getting burnt isn’t the worst thing in the world. What doesn’t kill you, as they say.
Last words: I’d have really preferred to wake up to this (a little bit of 80ies in the morning: caffeine for the tired ear):