A Bumpy Ride Down Memory Lane
It caught me completely off guard. The Christmas music was playing, and I felt full of the Christmas spirit after singing carols with Mom earlier in the morning, and Dan and I have had a lovely holiday (other than the oral surgery part). Dan brought all of our decorations down from the garage, and we put the lights on our 8 foot Frasier Fir. I was ready to decorate!
Dan left to go to work for a few hours, and I opened the large box of ornaments. As I carefully unwrapped each of the special pieces that I had collected over many, many years, a huge wave of sadness washed over me, and I began to cry. What the– what was wrong with me? I was spending a peaceful morning listening to cheesy Christmas music, and doing something I always love to do- decorate the tree. It didn’t make any sense.
But, I suppose if I’m honest with myself, it does make sense. Singing carols with Mom was so fun, but it made me realize that I won’t have her for too many more Christmases. That was part of it. The other part was the intense emotional reaction to each of the ornaments as I unwrapped them. Silly, I know, but each ornament comes wrapped in memories, and not all of the memories are happy ones. I keep them all, because in some way they are a record of my life, with all of its bumps and bruises.
So many of them make me smile- special moments from my very happy years with Dan. Some are there to represent pets we’ve lost over the years. Some were gifts from students- all the way back to my first years teaching middle school band. Some are from the tree that Mom and I decorated when I was a child.
Some, however, remind me of darker Christmases in the last years of my first marriage, Christmases that ended up in terrible arguments. I wasn’t so strong then, and was never good at standing up to his bullying. At the very end, I spent the holidays with my mom at her retirement community in Florida. He left me there and stayed at his girlfriend’s apartment. Ho ho ho, Merry freakin’ Christmas.
Times are different now…I am different. The holidays are happy and filled with laughter and celebration at Chez Gainey, and this will be my 11th Christmas spent with my Dan. I am strong now…sometimes it gets taken being pushed over the edge to make you realize what is truly inside of you. The stronger I got from the things I learned from that experience, the more I was able to open my heart to joy, to love. To also love myself again.
I don’t believe in regret, and I appreciate the many good things that came out of my first marriage. He was not a bad man- we were just two incredibly different people in most every aspect. There were some very good times. I know that I wouldn’t have appreciated the relationship that I have with Dan now, though, if I hadn’t first learned what I could and could not live with. My marriage now is so different, one built on trust, respect, great love, and a huge sense of humor. We laugh together a lot. We always say that our inner children are alive and well, and I love that. I need that.
Holidays are fun- every one of them. We sing loudly to the carols playing (often changing the words terribly…making us laugh more). Dan will break into a dance when we’re out shopping, not caring about who sees him, just to make me laugh. Everyone smiles at him- he is so full of joy. He is my heart.
Okay, back to decorating for me. I am going to be okay with shedding a few tears today. It doesn’t take anything away from what I have now, to honor what I have lost. Every one of us has a store of darker memories, and we can’t always choose when those memories come to visit. Life is about learning lessons, and I am thankful for all of them – even the ones that left me bruised and battered. I will stand back up, every single time.
Now, where’s my Julie Andrews Christmas CD?