Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Santa, stories and a little sadness . . .

This morning we had our "final" at my professor Steve Bearden's house. Steve is this brilliant, kind, thoughtful, welcoming human who seems to embrace all that is best in the world while still knowing the depths of darkness and pain. At the end of Steve's classes he has his class over for celebrations. Today our Spiritual & Clinical Praxis class went to his home, ate lots of tastey food brought by my classmates, talked to one another and then Steve read to us.

One of my favorite things as a child in school was being read to every day after lunch recess. It was soothing. For me so much of my understanding of self, love, faith, life, comes from the words of others. Many don't think me much the reader, but I find that nevertheless my identity has been so influenced by the authors who have spoken their hearts and imaginations out onto pages that I have been fortunate enough to read.

Steve read The Polar Express, Polar Bear Scare, Santa Cows and Owl Moon. I had never read any of these books - I know, how have I never read The Polar Express? I thought it seemed boring - but he read it to us and it was wonderful. Then he asked if anyone had holiday traditions. And people began to share their family's traditions - cutting down trees, staring at lights, sleeping in the living room all together and watching It's A Wonderful Life - experiences, shared experiences. And I found myself crying. I was so very sad.

I don't remember us really having traditions growing up - and I really wanted some. We opened one present on Christmas eve - always pajamas and yet often seeming a surprise and I was ever enthusiastic about that one gift. But did we have more?

When I was married we decided that we wanted traditions, things for our family. And even though our family was just the two of us, it seemed right to begin our traditions when we were engaged. One was this "first christmas" ornament that had a scroll inside - every year we would write on that scroll. Another was how we got our ornaments - we got a special one for us each year - our tree was going to fill up with special memories building each year on the last and to the next - like our love was.

And I became so sad and I wept.

And I longed for my old life. That sense of family. That feeling of forever and building and togetherness, promises and hope.

Christmas to me is a lot about hope. Hope for new beginnings, for life, faith in something good and right. And since I love Christmas - the music, the lights, the smells, the traditions I have found that remembering can be bittersweet.

I couldn't understand why I wanted so much for this Christmas to be special for me and Kyle. Why I was so sad that we would be apart for 10 days - aside from the normal expectation of missing him. Why us not celebrating in some unique way just broke my heart. And I realized today in my professors living room, it's because I want to build on our story. It is hard when your stories have to change, when dreams end and starting over is part of life. And even when your identity is new and your faith renewed, your heart still has memories that your brain doesn't think of consciously.

So here I sit watching the lights twinkle on my Christmas tree and try to wrap my head around a world of feelings and I know, my lizard is not dead (if you go to school with me that would make sense). And it's okay for the lizard to still be alive - because then some of the kittens made it too. But some didn't, and for those and for parts of what the lizard meant, I cry.


Jenny said...

This is beautiful, Heather. Today, in particular, I have run across things associated with my mom and it hurt in a particularly ripe way that it hasn't hurt in a long time. And I missed her. And I missed the opportunity of having a mom grow old with you. So, we are both sad today. And yet, sadness is part of the joyful Christmas season, as well.

Anonymous said...


You really struck a chord with me. I too miss the family traditions I once had with my children and their mother. Decorating, putting the outside lights up and all the other things that go with the holiday.

The funny thing is that although i am melancholy about the past, i have a new start with my girlfriend and her sons.

Since I have returned to the Catholic Church in preparation for my confirmation I came across an advent book with daily ways to prepare for the coming of the lord. We decided to do some of these things and have begun a new tradition.

God bless you and your son this Holiday Season.


About Me

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Portland, OR, United States
I am a daughter, sister, friend, wife, counselor and colleague. I am a work in progress. There may be some pieces out of place and things might be messy, but it's okay. I would rather accept that I am still unfinished than think that this is it. You can find my comments on faith and spirituality on my blog: http://themessinessoffaith.blogspot.com/ And my comments and anecdotes on life at: http://sheisaworkinprogress.blogspot.com/

Books That Matter. Well, some of the many that matter.

  • Magical Shrinking: Stumbling Through Bipolar Disorder, Chris Wells
  • Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen
  • An Abudance of Katherines, John Green
  • Dave Pelzer
  • Franny & Zooey, J.D. Salinger
  • I Was Told There'd Be Cake, Sloane Crosley
  • The Cloister Walk, Kathleen Norris
  • The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are, Daniel J. Siegel