Childhood Joys

29 09 2009

Fall is in the air…there has been a wind advisory for Mankato in the last few days, the temperature has dropped, the leaves are changing and I feel like I can always smell woodsmoke hovering in the air. I also feel a cloud of dread following me around like Eyore’s little grey rain cloud.

I love fall…it has been a favorite time for me since I was a child because I love going back to school with all the new school supplies and I love apple picking, woodsmoke, the cooling air, the changing leaves, carving pumpkins, sitting in front of a fire with a good book, wearing sweaters and jeans with flip flops and apple cider. I love autumn because it has good memories for me of when I was a child and my parents would take my brother and I apple picking at a local orchard and then back home to make apple pies as a family. This was not a frequent occasion (my family getting along) and it didn’t happen for many years once my parents started fighting all the time, but it makes me happy to look back on those few clouded memories when my parents appeared to like each other and our family felt like a family. One of the reasons I feel a sense of bittersweetness and dread is because those memories are all I have left of something that once brought me a lot of joy.

The biggest reason I feel this sense of impending doom is because I know that Christmas is coming soon after. I used to think Christmas was the best time of the year. I loved the joy that people carried with them while celebrating the season and the decorations and Christmas carols and the beauty of Jesus’ birth…but a lot of that joy was taken away from me a few years ago.

For as long as I can remember, Christmas always made me so happy. I loved the beginning of December, when my parents would choose a weekend to turn on Christmas carols, make cocoa and drag box after cardboard box out of storage in the musty basement. The boxes were cheap cardboard in primary colors of red, blue and green printed with white snowflakes. They smelled like mildew and spice…a smell that always made me feel like Christmas was there because all of the decorations had that scent. My dad would wrestle the fake tree into an upright position while my brother struggled to untangle yards of bright lights that had been plugged in to make the untangling easier. Meanwhile, my mom and I would decorate the bathroom, living room, dining room, kitchen, banister and windows with decorations that became close friends as they were brought out year after year. I looked forward to that every single year and gloried in the highest point of the day: decorating the tree.

My parents would sit near the tree, my dad usually worn out after his struggle to make the tree stand up. My mom would lovingly unwrap the delicate ornaments that had been collected through generations or purchased to commemorate our first Christmases, our love of figure skating for me and hockey for my brother, our clumsily crafted ornaments that we made at our private schools. Each one of those ornaments was a joy to put on the tree and my brother and I carefully divvied them up so each of us could put the most special ones on the tree. In addition, we switched off topping the tree with a star, trading off every other year so we could experience the joy of topping off a pretty tree with that bright shining star while sitting atop our dad’s shoulders. It was the perfect moment in the perfect day…a day that always ended up with us lying on our backs on the hand-embroidered tree skirt, looking up through the branches at the lights and ornaments. I loved that moment with all of my heart and wished that the perfect day would never end because days like that when all that Christmas joy pervaded our family were rare.

I also loved the Christmas musicals our school and church would put on in celebration of the season. We kids would get dressed up in our Christmas dress clothes and pack in the car to go sit in the comfortable pews and soak in the ambience of the most incredible time of the year when everything seemed extra fancy and extra special…I wanted to take a picture of every moment because it meant so much to me.

Unfortunately, this feeling didn’t last forever…Christmas was continually eclipsed by sad events that my brother and I couldn’t ignore and which took away from the joy of Christmas for us forever. Our parents got divorced and the first Christmas after their parting was terrible because my dad, brother and I shared a Christmas filled with tears and sadness because the holiday felt sad and empty without our mom there. A few years later, my dad got engaged and started planning a wedding with the woman he loved…he planned for the wedding to be a week after Christmas. In theory, it was a great idea but in reality, it was terrible timing.

The two reasons that Christmas has lost all of its joy for me are 1) my grandpa died a week before Christmas and I spent Christmas bawling my eyes out and mourning his loss. The funeral was a terrible event that I spent black out drunk after swigging strawberry flavored vodka out of the trunk of my car because I couldn’t bear the pain of it on my own. Then, my dad went through with his wedding and we had to try to grin and bear it because it was a special time for my dad and his bride-t0-be. I once again got black out drunk and drank more strawberry vodka because the pain was too much…and ever since, it hasn’t been the same.

My dad stopped celebrating Christmas with his kids. I don’t know if it’s too hard for him because he lost his dad around that time of the year or because he has too many memories of what Christmas used to mean for us as a family before his new wife or if he just doesn’t care anymore but we don’t celebrate as a family anymore. He is always in Florida at Cheryl’s condo, ignoring his kids who would love to spend Christmas with him…he just leaves the state and we get a phone call and a box in the mail with Christmas presents a few weeks afterwards.

I started spending Christmas with D’s family…his fam brought me in with open arms when they heard I was spending Christmas on my own, and I have spent a few wonderful years with them. It isn’t the same but it’s special in its own way. I love spending time with them, going to Gma and Gpa Deutsch’s house for dinner and Mass, doing the Grode fam Xmas where everyone gets together to exchange gifts, drink, eat and play games for a day, to open gifts after Xmas Mass and spend some time together looking at the fantastic lights. I love that part of Xmas with the Grode’s…even if it isn’t the same as the Christmas of my childhood.

I somehow feel like that childhood joy is gone forever and I pray that I can give the gift of that joy to my kids someday…and I am blessed that I ever got to enjoy it in the first place.




3 responses

30 09 2009

I don’t know If I said it already but …Great site…keep up the good work. 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

A definite great read..Jim Bean

6 10 2009
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Hey, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, anyway cool blog, I bookmarked you. 🙂

8 10 2009

I don’t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, 🙂

A definite great read….

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