My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Saturday, December 20, 2008

my less than perfect Christmas

It's weird how life takes us back across bridges we've already crossed... how you end up in the same places you've been before, both geographically and emotionally and spiritually. I've always loved to measure my life by remembering what my life was like the last time I was at a place.

Early on that place of measurement was Blood Mountain... up here in the North Georgia mountains, at the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. I had gone there as a teenager... then gone there when I was dating my kids' dad... then gone there again when we were newlyweds... and gone again with our kids... I have a series of pictures taken at the exact same spot.

Holidays give us a good measuring stick... as we pull out the same ornaments and make the same recipes and hear the same songs and honor the same traditions. Maybe that's part of what makes Christmas so special... it's a time of year that we look back to Christmases past and think about who we are and how we are in comparison to the last.

Today I had some shopping to do. Not much because I don't have much money. I was determined to not go into debt or skip paying a bill to be able to buy presents. My gift to the people in my life is me being happy and healthy and not having to ask for handouts! But my kids... I had to get some things for my kids who are no longer children. I told them the gig was up... they know the whole Santa story and they know mommy is broke... but I had to get them SOMETHING... so today I set out toward civilization to find somewhere to part with my hard earned money.

Oddly enough I ended up at the very place that Michael and I had shopped last Christmas Eve... a Kohl's store right off Georgia 400 which is more than an hour from where I live now... we bought Austin a Christmas tie... and he later entertained Sarabeth and Jamie with it. We had dinner at a Longhorn's steakhouse there. Christmas Eve was not a bad day... out of the whole Christmas holiday last year, Christmas Eve was the best. We went to church with Jim and Angie and had dinner with them. Lots of pleasant memories from that day. Some unpleasant memories too.

It was at this same exit that I stopped one day with Bobby while looking for a house when Michael and I first moved in together. It was blistering hot outside. I had been driving around looking at houses and trying to determine how far I could stand to commute. Bobby was six... we were listening to the radio and singing along together... we stopped for gas just as the song "Golddigger" by Kanye West came on the radio. Bobby and I sang it at the top of our lungs! I decided this exit was way too far north for me... and Michael found us the place in Woodstock about a month and a half later. It's bittersweet now... I had such great times with Michael's kids... and I had so much hope and excitement about the future. It's hard to look back and realize how disappointing it all turned out to be.

Last year Christmas Day was difficult for many reasons... one was that we spent a good part of the day in the car traveling from Atlanta to Jacksonville. Our traveling time was mostly argument time and it was stressful... upsetting. The trip up had been rather unpleasant too for several reasons. It was a generally unhappy Christmas for me.

Christmas has a way of being a magnifying glass. Anything that's good in our life seems infinitely more wonderous. Anything that's lacking seems much more obvious. It's a great polarizer. The "haves" celebrate one way and the "have nots" have a different experience. Lonely people feel lonelier. People in love feel more in love. Broken relationships seem further apart.

I'm glad to be alive this Christmas. I'm acutely aware that last year was Bobby's mom Misty's last Christmas... the year before was her mother's last Christmas. We can't really count on next year, nor can we take for granted that anyone we love who is here this year will also be here the next. I pray for Misty's dad. I know this Christmas has to be particularly tough for him. I think about Misty's brand new baby, Brennan... Baby's First Christmas... without mommy around to take pictures and take him to see Santa for the first time... I wonder if Bobby, Melissa and Brennan will get to have a family picture with Santa or if the three siblings will even have the opportunity to be together for Christmas... this or any other Christmas. How well will they know each other? I'm glad to be alive... glad that my children have the opportunity to be together and be with me.

I wish there was more time to spend with my special someone. I wish that time and distance wasn't between us. I wish we hadn't lost three years. I wish that I had more money to spend and more energy to do things and... I guess we never stop wanting that Martha Stewart perfect Christmas. For me the ideal Christmas is always the one portrayed in the Southern Living magazine... fabulous meals, fabulously decorated home, fabulously and immacuately dressed Stepford family members.

Stubby the 3legged cat just stole a candy cane off of my bed. That's the kind of imperfect Christmas I have! Ridiculous... low budget... a bit lonely... the antithesis of Martha Stewart or Southern Living or Good Housekeeping. Just me... a 3 legged cat... and the blessing of life... and hope for future Christmases...

When I measured myself today... at that same shopping center... a year later... I laughed out loud! It's still surreal to me that I have this life, in this place, in a happier, more stable environment and wonderful community... an hour further north than the area that seemed way too far north for me two and a half years ago! It's amazing that by accepting rejection, I found happiness. It's humbling to realize that all that I thought I had last year was temporary and the things I never knew I had are permanent. It's empowering to realize how strong I feel, just by admitting how weak I am.

I love to shop. I hate crowds. It's a rainy, miserable day here in North Georgia. It seemed to me that it was "daddy shopping with the kids" day. I can't tell you how many overwhelmed fathers I saw! One poor guy had a toddler who kept running away from him while he tried to pick out an outfit for his wife. "You might want to put him in a shopping cart... it would be easier to keep up with him...". Eh. What do I know? I'm only the mother of three, right?

At any rate... I had a great time shopping. I found AMAZING deals at Old Navy and remembered my $3 shirt dream.... yes, I found my $3 shirts! I even found a few things for me... khakis for $2.49, a skirt for $1.99... I remembered to buy stocking stuffers- something I typically forget. I even bought scotch tape - and I ALWAYS forget that! I had a REAL grocery shopping trip in a REAL grocery store - not just our little country Ingles. I even found some chili chocolate... if you haven't tried it, you should... it's an awesome flavor combination! I felt great today... no pain... I came home and sorted through all my purchases. I have a bunch to wrap, but I'm in no hurry. Austin is spending another night with his cousin and I'm enjoying another night of solitude. I'm hoping for company tonight but I'm thinking it may not happen. My friend Amy is up here visiting her nanny and wants us to spend some time together, so I may have a dinner date with her. I had a great phone call from a good friend... one who knows what I'm going through... I went to Starbucks and got a venti iced green tea... I did some housework... it's just been a good day.

I think it's because I'm an optimist that I always hope for the picture perfect holiday... to squeeze in time to see the Nutcracker and bake banana nut bread and to have a freezer full of sausage balls ready to give out and/or bake... to make homemade special gifts for everyone in my life... to decorate like I want to... to have that Norman Rockwell Christmas... but I'm appreciative of what I have. I am blessed. I am happy. I am content with my less than perfect Christmas... while trusting and believing and hoping for better ones to come.


Big Mark 243 said...

Looking at your pic with Bobby, I would be hard pressed not to pegged him as you bilogical son!

Sort of a random entry ... you have a lot of thoughts going on in your head, mainly good, and I think you are in a comfortable place. Not only should you be doing a little reflection, but you should be doing a little 'where you are going' and A LOT of keeping it tight as you keep things real.

Wherever it is you are going, you will get there, and what is supposed to be, will be there as well. Hold up your end of the bargain! GET THERE!!

Beth said...

Heather, hon...don't get all caught up in the Martha Myth. She does that crap for a living--you're MAKING a living. Martha is pretty cool and has some great ideas, but her reality is far removed from that of most people.

You said it best when you wrote "fabulously and immaculately dressed Stepford family members." Who wants a Stepford family?! We are all beautiful in our imperfection, and hoping for an unrealistic dream of perfection does nothing more than suck the life and joy out of our present existence.

Norman Rockwell was a painter. Life is not a painting. Keep living the real life, Heather.

Love, Beth

Maire said...

Hi Heather~I hope this year is filled with good and happy memories for you all! You deserve it!
*hugs* Maire

Remo said...

The best thing about history? It's always there for us as a story.

Keep turning the page. :)

Tina of Moon Shine said...

perfect? what's perfect? what you call perfect is only an image. anyone can create an image.

it is the "less than perfect" that turn out to be the best Christmasses. Perfect is boring.

you will see, this is going to be one the best that you have had in a long, long, time.

Myra said...

The very best Christmas is the one you're in, the memories you're making, the 3-legged cat! One day you'll look back at this year, and realize the progess you've made has been phenomenal, and what you've left behind has taught you such a valuable lesson. You've never given up making the best of a situation, even in you're home!