I got home tonight with barely enough time to put hamburgers on the stove and throw together dinner. It’s the price I pay for not having planned the week better, but between Christmas trees, decorations, and already being behind on Christmas, I wasn’t able to really get things going. I still had laundry in the hamper that was more than a few days old. It’s still up there.
We didn’t eat at the table, though it was clean. The exhaustion of the day and the stress of trying to budget for Christmas presents – which I still haven’t finished getting – has been getting to me. So we ate hamburgers and tater-tots on the living room floor and watched the original version of Miracle on 34th Street. My sons were already moaning about the fact some “old movie” was going to be on and that they had to watch it.
As we watched, I put up the stockings, the five of our names embroidered on the tops. They’re one of the holdouts from my wife’s decorating scheme, something that cost a pretty penny. My oldest, Abbi, looked and said “we have enough we put them up and we can put Mom’s here.”
It took me back a year ago where I had this debate with myself – what do I do with Andrea’s stocking? It was last year I made the determination that we just shouldn’t put hers up. It’s not being mean and it’s not trying to hide that she was part of our lives, something that people had speculated we were doing. No, I didn’t put it up because I didn’t want to confuse the kids. If you put the stocking up and it’s filled by Santa . . . what is that telling them? Is Mom still here? Can the 9-year-old’s mind handle that Santa still fills her stocking? And what if it’s not filled? Is that just another message, again, that Mom isn’t here any more?
I looked at Abbi and said “I didn’t put it out last year, kiddo.”
“No. I thought it’s the wrong message. What do you tell Noah, Sam and Hannah if it’s not filled? Or worse yet, if it is?!”
Abbi stood there and thought for a really long time. I could see in her eyes she wanted to put the stocking up but the logic of the debate was raging in her head.
“I see what you mean. We don’t have to, I mean . . . ” and the conversation tapered off.
But the movie was on and the key scene was coming . . . men in the post office saying how the “dead letter office” was filled with letters from Santa and they should get rid of them this way.
My son Sam had suddenly registered what the postmen were doing.
“They can’t just throw out kids’ letters to Santa, that’s just mean!”
I looked and Abbi burst out giggling.
“Awww. I love you, Sammy! They’re not throwing them out!”
I chimed in here. “They’re saying that Kris is Santa, so they’re giving him the letters. ”
“Oh. Okay, that’s fine, I guess, but why didn’t they just send him the letters in the first place?!”
It’s amazing how a little boy’s innocence will steer you on the right path. We put the five stockings in their places and left the last holder blank. It’s not like we ignore Andrea, she’s always here. She’s hard to ignore, even when she’s no longer with us. But it’s also part of moving forward with our lives. We can’t expect that she’s going to prod us to Christmas or help. The ideas she’d have given for Christmas presents are gone. The life we were supposed to lead is gone as well. We had to write a different story, basing it on what we already had of our life together.
But it’s always great to see that no matter how rough things get, there’s a certainty that hangs in the air, and all I have to do is look every once in awhile through my son’s eyes.