Thoughts That Count

bell, xmas, holiday, christmas, santa, reindeer, polar expressThey are shades of me. They are living, breathing, and bittersweet memories of an innocence past and an ignorance lost. There is Christmas in their hearts, and they keep it always.

Bells—they ring.  Songs—they sing. I watch them in their revelry from a faraway place, floating like fog through their treetops. Their smiles are laced with icing. Their breath is of candy canes and gingerbread. Their hair sparkles with glitter beneath lights strung forever. They know nothing but merry. They know naught but the now. They nestle snug in their beds and they dream in the magic.

I exhale slowly.

Late nights dance with early mornings and I spin like a broken record. The tree is lit and the fireside glows. Holiday albums that used to skip and choose sides now stream endlessly from speakers unseen. Their joy is daunting and their melody haunting. The echoes they leave fall silent like snow.

This is the hole my grandmother left, torn new and asunder. My memories of Christmas are also of her, and without the one I cope as I can with the other.

Ghosts of Christmases past linger sweet like whiskey. Ghosts of Christmases future are unknown and fraught with all that that implies. The spirit of Christmas present is complicated. It is both hollow and overflowing. It is both an emptiness in my heart and the means to fill it. It is the most wonderful time of the year, and yet it is the loneliest.

One Christmas my grandmother gave us stockings that she had made out of bits of old jeans and thread and love. They were hung by the chimney with care and varying degrees of style.

This Christmas my grandparents are gone, and family has scattered. Roads have diverged, differences made. There is no chimney to speak of.

But the Christmas of my grandmother still exists. It is a moveable feast, and it finds me as it left me—giving, taking, content, and hungry. I am the same despite all that has changed.

I keep this Christmas the best I know how, and for that my children will remember her always.


A version of this post first appeared on DadCentric in 2009.

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