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  • Writer's pictureRoo Phelps

When Christmas hurts. . .

On the 12th of November I begin digging through my alcove to pull several boxes labelled "Christmas" into my home. I light a cranberry scented candle, put Christmas music on, and start unpacking. I carefully unwrap each item and place it wherever it seems to fit in my new home. This will be my first Christmas in this house in Rutland. With each item now carefully displayed, I sit down on the couch and observe my work. Reds and golds glitter from every corner. The word "Joy" shines on the mantle, and with the cheerful music still tinging in the background I feel only . . . deep remarkable sadness that leaves me weeping. I love Christmas, I love everything about it. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the smiles, the family, the drinks, the fires, the warmth. I look forward to it all year, and yet... Christmas for me these last few years has come to represent a lack of continuity of narrative. There was a time when Christmas was predictable. For years and years, my mom and dad, my brother and his husband, me and my husband and my nana. The same decorations, the same house, the same people the same traditions and feelings. But time marches on, and then you're divorced, and your mom and dad move, and your nana passes away, and suddenly it feels it's been a lifetime since Christmas represented anything familiar or not fraught with struggle and sadness. Loneliness, even if you're in good company. Other people knowing what to predict, whom they'll be with, where they'll feel at home. And me, each Christmas resembling nothing like the last. Each Christmas a void of unpredictability and the singular desire to simply travel back in time.

I surround myself with glowing objects in hopes that somehow their very presence will spirit me away to that time and a place where the feelings I long for still exist.

Christmas brings up so much emotion, so much nostalgia, so many memories, so much joy, and along with it, potentially, so much sorrow. I paint too bleak a picture. It is not without love and excitement that I approach this holiday season! I have wonderful plans, that I know I will enjoy immensely and be spent with people whom I feel grateful for. I will see my mom and dad in less than two weeks and celebrate an early Christmas in California with them. I'm excited to be picking out gifts for my brother and his husband, to go and get a tree from the woods, and it is with great vigour that I'm attacking the task of finding my best friends two children the perfect gifts. They are also going to make some ornaments for my tree which makes my heart glow. There is still so much love and excitement left in this holiday. . . but I guess I write this simply to tell you . . .if Christmas hurts you, I want you to know, it hurts me too. If this Christmas looks nothing like the ones gone by, I understand. If Christmas calls to mind loved ones we cannot be with, I am missing people too. Christmas hurts me too. It is OK to meet this season with both enthusiasm, and despair. And, if by chance you are living in those moments, oh those wonderful glorious years, no glaring empty seat that used to be full, no distant stares to Christmas past, but instead so fully in the throes of what will be your greatest Christmases, please invite us in! And when that song comes on that calls us back in time, when the scent of cranberry candles whisks us away, when the cracking of the Christmas crackers leaves us misty eyed and dabbing our tears as subtly as possible, please use your arm like a time machine, slip it around our shoulder to pull us back to the present, and let us know "I'm glad you're here." We may not show it as capably as we wish we could, but we are grateful for you. ~Roo Phelps







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