Oh, holidays. How I love you and fear you at the same time. I get a kick out of my children learning your customs and finding all of your joys. You are a wonderful reason to see friends and family. And no one awaits the feasts associated with a major celebration like I do.
But you do know how to bring the stress. Family is great. Most of them are wonderful to be around. Ahem. I also don’t do so well with pressure situations like decorating or cooking. (Yes, I love food. I do not love making it.) And then there is that big stress you always throw at me.
ENJOY THIS FUN DAY BECAUSE HOLIDAYS ARE FUN DAMN IT.
I try so hard to enjoy the special days, but sometimes I can’t feel it or even fake it.
Easter 2006 was one of those tough times. My older brother Michael had passed away in late January. His death was unexpected and obviously quite awful. Then, in March, we lost our first son, Carter Austin who was a stillbirth. Again, this was an excruciating loss for all of us.
But, for some reason, we thought we’d have a normal Easter celebration. My brother Robert and his family were in California and could not join us. My husband’s family didn’t join us either; it was just my parents, my husband, and I.
I started the day by going to church. By myself. Bad move. I’ve been to church many times by myself. I do it because I like being there, though I’d rather be with someone I care about. However, since the deaths of my brother and son, going to church makes me cry quite a bit. It’s not anger at God for what’s happened. It’s not just sadness. It’s just an overwhelming outpouring of emotion. Of course I cried and sobbed that day in church. Shaking shoulders sobbing.
Then, my husband and I went to my parents’ house. My mom is somewhat obsessed with Easter and Christmas and decorates anything that doesn’t move. (She has half my inheritance tied up in decorations for those holidays.) This Easter was no exception despite the fierce hurt. She wanted so much to make it a great day for us; I know it was done with love.
But it was kind of too much. It felt like we were pretending to be normal when we weren’t. But I can for sure appreciate the effort because many times that spring and summer, I pretended to be okay until I actually felt okay. Happiness is a habit sometimes. (I was sad a ton too. It’s okay to be sad when people you love are gone.)
My mom made a traditional Easter meal which ended with lots of leftovers. I have no idea what we talked about. I’m not sure anyone genuinely smiled. It was not a joyous feast to say the least.
We took my brother’s convertible for a ride. This car was my brother’s prized possession. He had wanted it and worked for it his whole life. It was so him. We feared the car was going to be taken away due to some issues with his insurance. It was breaking my parents’ hearts to think that someone else would have his treasure.
That ride was beyond sad. It just felt like we were trying so hard to have him with us, but it wasn’t working. I was miserable. It was hot and my parents blared music they thought Michael would have liked. I could not pretend to take comfort in this gesture, and I am sure I hurt my parents’ feelings.
When we got back to their house, my mom and I were both crying. I told her I was sorry I had ruined her day, but I just couldn’t be happy when my son was dead. She was feeling the same way. She cried about how she now knew the sorrow her own mother carried around. (My mother’s sister died when my mom was nine.) We hugged and cried together. It was actually a good conversation about our sons. It led to some honest sharing and deeper connection between us, although I hate that we are both a part of this club.
My husband and I went home and rested and tried to find comfort in each other and our home and the garden we had for our son. It had been a tough day. A holiday got the best of me that year.
But, just like every spring brings another chance, every holiday that comes is another opportunity to find joy.
We are currently living in Poland while my parents are still in Texas. That does not stop us from enjoying holidays together. This Easter, my mom has sent two boxes of decorations and cards and cupcake mixes and treats. (There were jellybeans, but someone ate them all. I blame stress. Or low blood-sugar cravings. Or something.) We have the beautiful baskets she sent last year ready to go.
So, you see my friend Easter, we still carry on family traditions and enjoy the great things you have to offer. We make it through tough years and far apart years. You and all your other holiday friends are always welcome at our house.