My firm’s holiday party is tonight and I won’t be attending. On this day people tend to do the Secret Santa and other things in the office. Today is no exception. Only I’m not participating in any way.

I remember when we did the Secret Santa at my first law firm. That was a fun and funny day. I remember uproarious laughter at the crazy gifts. It is still a sparkling memory.

Today that uproarious laughter emanates from one of the conference rooms. I’m not there. I’m not in any way, shape or form ready to be there. I’ve declined to participate in the holiday merriment.

However, I didn’t think it would bother me. But it does. When I heard it, I thought, “I remember when I was happy.” And I sat in my office and cried. It was completely, COMPLETELY, shocking to me that I would break down like that. But I did.

Not that I’ll never be happy again but these are not the carefree days of just six years ago. Even though there were issues back then with where I was working and where I was living, I could throw them off for a while and enjoy laughing with people I really liked.

***

I saw my doctor yesterday and he said, “The first ‘everything’ is hard…” Yes, I know.

One of the reasons that I’m not doing a lot of social things is that I fear breaking down at some random moment. It’s almost 4 months since Michael’s death and the crying is not a daily thing but it continues to be a random thing. And that’s bothersome.

So I’ll just process my grief and do what I need to do. For now I’ll just remember the best holiday memories of Michael that I have. Which are:

1. It was like pulling teeth to get him to put up decorations. Not that I was usually into it but I wanted some every year. He always did it in a rushed and annoyed manner. And then I would go out and say, “No that’s not right…” and he would say exasperated and whingy “Hoooooonnnnnnnnn……….” Yes, this is a best memory. It is so illustrative of us. And I loved it.

2. He watched every Scrooge/Christmas Carol movie there was, the original recording with Charles Laughton being his favorite and then the one with George C. Scott. But he also liked Scrooge McDuck and Mr. McGoo’s Christmas Carol. Every one of them, I think. I never met a person who was not so into Christmas who could watch these movies over and over again. I laughed every single time. My kids think he would like the new one with Jim Carrey. I’m sure he would (though I haven’t seen it, I know he would love it).

3. As he did with everything else, Michael would have preferred doing less than we did but said nothing as I did more and more. I know he thought I spent too much on the kids, on the meal and the preparations, but he never really protested. And of course he never said I couldn’t. Sometimes he would raise his eyebrows and say, “You bought who what???” and then he’d grouse for ten seconds and then pipe down. His attention deficit was such a gift to me. 😉

4. Sometimes….okay a lot of the times…the holidays would stress me out and he would say, “This isn’t that important hon. Don’t make yourself crazy.” But I would anyway. But it was nice to be given another option.

5. We never did much in the way of gifts for each other, preferring to go away or something like that after the holidays and we liked to give each other gifts throughout the year “just because” but we had some “gift” years. One year he bought me a brown leather coat though I’ve never worn a brown thing in my life. When the kids saw it they said to themselves “uh oh” but didn’t have the heart to tell him that I would hate it. And when I saw it I looked at it as the kids held their breath. I said that oh, this is lovely except I can’t wear brown. (He simply didn’t notice I did not own one brown piece of clothing). But another year he had my engagement ring reset with diamonds on the sides. I original had emeralds on the side because they are his birthstone but they were too soft to sit right in the setting and kept falling out. So he had it reset in diamonds. But it’s so odd that I loved both gifts (even though I returned the coat) and thought that one was amusing and one was absolutely lovely.

I know that in other relationships if I received an “un-me” gift I would think “Do you NOT pay attention?” I knew Michael did pay attention to me in all the important ways. He didn’t pay attention to details like the color of my clothes. But once I quit smoking and gained 50 pounds, he didn’t notice that either. When I said he HAD to notice 50 pounds on a 5’2 foot person, he said he did not. He said he just loved ME. Just me. And of course he didn’t notice when I lost it either. Oh well.

But he always bought me a card, a lovely card, and I rarely bought him one. He said it didn’t matter that I didn’t get him a card (and most years not even a present) since I was the one who put on Christmas and he appreciated it. We never kept a tally. We each did for the other without a balance sheet. I think it was pretty balanced most of the time. So it was good to get a present for no reason and to give one and to not expect that there was a debt or obligation to reciprocate.

6. One year we all went to lunch and then we walked over to Niketown and then to see the tree in Rockefeller Center on Christmas Eve. We walked all over that day which is hard to do in a group that big in New York City. I just remember that we would break into various configurations and he always found his way to my side. My son Michael would be on my other side and my son Nick kept trying to talk to me but one of the Michaels seemed to be in his way at all time. Finally he said, exasperated, “Could I please talk to my mother?” Michael just laughed and never moved. I have no idea why this stands out, but it does.

There’s a lot more than half a dozen. Neither of us were ever technically “Christmas” people. Michael told me that when he was single he always spent Christmas eating in a bar (even though he didn’t drink) because they had the best food. Except for Scrooge movies, there wasn’t much he liked about it.

I spent many years “making Christmas” for the kids when they were little and some years when I was exhausted from doing everything, I would sit and cry, even the years I was in a relationship during the holidays. Just because I was tired and no one ever did anything like that for me.

But when Michael was there, I never cried because every Christmas night he was there eating all the leftovers and praising all my cooking and watching Scrooge movies.

And, really, what more do you need?

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