Internet, December has now come and gone and I completely fell off the blog bandwagon. Too much to do in that crazy month, not to mention the heaping pile of grief layering everything else. But we survived. And despite the moments of sadness, there were also moments of joy. It was a memorable Christmas, that much is sure.
Archer had his precious little Christmas program at his Mother’s Day Out “school” and it was just as amazing and hilarious as all little kid programs typically are. Last year Archer stood in a complete stupor and this year was pretty much the same, with the exception of some Nose Picking followed by Booger Snacking.
I cannot make this up. Naturally I documented the whole thing and saved it for the wedding slideshow.
You know my particular disdain for the pesky Elf on the Shelf, but Jude has become the recipient of all Elf on the Shelf duties this year and I couldn’t be happier. Jude feels like he’s a part of the Christmas Magic Makers this year, which is how I explained the whole Santa thing to him when he asked last year. I told him that he is now a privileged member of the magic making society and that he can now share in the responsibilities of making the magic come to life. Thus, the elf on the shelf is now his domain. He’s had some pretty creative ideas and I am more than happy to let him take it over. Archer still doesn’t totally get the elf thing, and so this year is more like a trial run in some ways, I’m sure.
Except, the one hiccup came when Jude bragged to his very-much-still-believing younger cousins about how he gets to move the elf. “YOU TOUCH YOUR ELF?!” they cried in disbelief.
Then mid-December, we packed up the children and the pesky chihuahua and hit the road to Carlton Landing for the holiday home tour weekend. It was also kind of a working weekend for me; I’ve been shooting the real estate listings there as well as the vacation rentals, and I had a handful of ones that I needed to get done. We got in late Friday night and collapsed in a heap, and then began binging on the newest season of The Crown (ERMAHGERRRD STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING RIGHT NOW, AND WATCH IT. I’LL WAIT HERE. GO ON — )
On Saturday, we visited the pop up shops and hit a few of the houses for the home tour. It makes me so happy to see our community there thrive and it’s enormously gratifying to me to be a part of it in some small way. Naturally there was lots of napping, eating, etc. on repeat.
Sad news, though — one of our outdoor rugs and the striped Annie Selke pouf have gone missing. I hate hate hate to think that someone stole them, but I feel like one of our neighbors would’ve noticed if the wind had carried them off to some distant bush or tree, you know? And one of the poufs is still there on the porch, along with the other rugs we have on the side porch too. So weird. WHYYYYY. It still makes me sad. In all the time we’ve had our house available to rent, we’ve only ever had one thing stolen (a Nest thermostat still in the box – sigh) and I can’t imagine someone taking just the rug and a pouf.
That night there was a great big bonfire up at our friend Clay Chapman’s set of tiny houses he’s building. It really was spectacular and felt like some kind of medieval event, what with those brick facades glittering in the firelight.
And, to round things out, we got word that evening that Jude and a few other boys got busted by one of the dads for breaking light bulbs in broad daylight ::eye roll:: (I think we’re safe to say that the odds of them becoming accomplished bandits is pretty low). Which, in the grand scheme of things is not that big of a deal – but we wanted him to feel like it was a super big deal. It’s destroying someone else’s property and that’s not ok. Sigh. Parenting is for the birds sometimes. It is the WORST. And we aren’t even to the teenage years yet, and that’s what makes me nervous. Jude is a good kid – but he is still human.
We drove back to Oklahoma City late Sunday evening and poor Simon – he kept trying to play Christmas music and then the backseat would begin to howl: “WE CAN’T HEAR OUR SHOW ON THE IPHONE! TURN IT DOWN!” And then we’d be all “YOU TURN IT DOWN!” And then someone would yell “QUIT IT! NO, YOU STOP YELLING!”
All to the backdrop of a Christmas crooner singing “… comfort and joy … oh tidings of cooooooomfort and jooooooy.” I started to laugh. In that car, that blessed night, THERE WAS SO MUCH COMFORT AND SO MUCH JOY, YOU GUYS.
The closer we crept to Christmas, the greater my dread increased. I hated the thought of sitting at Mom and Dad’s, just like always. Except, without Mom. We got to Dad’s house and there was zero evidence of Christmas. Not one of us could bear to go over there and decorate. So my brother in law hastily threw up the Christmas tree and we all sighed a bit in relief. I cried but realized too that I hadn’t yet spent the night at their house since possibly the last Christmas. I felt less sadness and more comfort in seeing my Mother’s familiar surroundings, in being there with my whole extended family, remembering her and all the amazing times we’ve shared in that happy Technicolor house. And we survived it. It came, it went – we survived the first year without her.
The weekend before Christmas, I took the time to do something I’d been planning on ever since Mom died in February. I got a few dozen cookies from a local bakery and wrote a card for the ICU nursing staff – a box for the day shift, a box for the night shift. For months now I’ve driven past that hospital and stared up at the window where Mom was, wanting to do something to honor all those people who’d helped us during that time. And it was like my own personal trail of tears, to park the car and make that long walk through the ER, up to the 4th floor of St Anthony Hospital. Those sounds – the beeping of the monitors, the smell – the view from those windows. But I made it, finally. That waiting room with another group of people, all anxiously cluttered about with old cups of coffee and others on cell phones, giving updates. I know those people – we were those people. Down the hall, past the desk where they’re supposed to stop you and ask who you’re there to see (but they never once did). And then, another right onto the long hall where Mom’s room was.
I stood there in the hallway and a nurse found me, holding those two boxes of Big Sky cookies. “Can I help you?”
“Yes. I wanted to … I … My mom …”
And then I mumbled the whole thing about Mom dying there, but what excellent care she received by all those amazing nurses, doctors, and staff. And that I just wanted to say something – anything – to let that be known in her memory, in her name.
The nurse asked for Mom’s name and that’s when I choked.
Glenda. Glenda Doner. I handed her the boxes, said a hasty thank you, and began down the hallway again, except this time I took the fork to the bathroom where I would routinely sob my eyes out. And I went back to sob again.
The difference in this whole story is that I did not stay in that bathroom sobbing for very long, like I did when she was dying. I’ve cried my share of tears in the past 11 months. But there was something healing in showing up to the hospital there and seeing that even though everything was essentially the same in that wing of the hospital, she was not still there in some kind of weird vegetative limbo between death and life. I know that sounds obvious – but it was so healing to be there and know that she wasn’t. That she wasn’t still suffering, stuck on that awful ventilator. She’s free of it all – every last chain of this stupid dumb Earth.
So I wiped my tears and looked at myself in the mirror. I am not the same daughter that I was 11 months ago. I’m sadder perhaps, but stronger too, and more confident in my legacy as a mother myself. Jesus has been ever present for me in the midst of this darkness and grief, but I can do hard things because He did the hardest thing of all. And this Christmas, my comprehension of how truly great the gift of His life was is clearer than ever. My gratitude that this loss, this present separation, is only temporary makes my grief sting just a tiny bit less.
Happy New Year to you, dear friends. I look forward to connecting more in 2018. Here’s to fresh beginnings.
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