Tag Archives: our story begins

New Holiday, New Things

2013-11-30 18.58.34-1There are some things that just had to change.

It’s now the third Christmas since I lost my wife, Andrea, and this year, 2013, seems to be the one where “moving on” took more physical form than mental.

It might be, perhaps, that we’ve dealt with so many losses this year that I figured it was time to rely on my own sense of self than to rely on something from the past.   That first year, December of 2011, I had to make a lot of decisions about Christmas, and even the most simple was the most difficult to come to terms with.  Last year, during the decorating phase, my oldest asked me why I wasn’t putting their mother’s stocking out.  I had to think that answer through, very hard.  Abbi, my oldest, is still dealing with the loss, moving far slower than she’d care to admit into the emotional morass.  I had to wade into it far earlier.  Not saying I’m perfect, I still have many, many moments of dark sadness, but they’re far fewer than they used to be.

My answer was pretty simple, as it’s the reason I didn’t put it out.  My boys still get visits from Santa, as do the two older girls.  So there is no easy answer when they wake up Christmas morning and find either a) the stocking is full . . . so if Mom’s gone why is she still getting presents from Santa?  What does that mean?  Where is she?  Then there’s b) the stocking’s empty, no presents, and they get it reinforced, on the most celebratory day of the year, that their mother is gone.  Forever.   The look on my daughter’s face showed her I’d put a lot of thought into this and it was the right thing to do.

But as this year has progressed, we seem to have lost so many it’s like the whole of existence wanted to see just how much my family and extended family could carry on their shoulders.  We lost my grandma, who had a long life, sure, but it’s never easy to see that come to an end.  Every Christmas was spent in memory of sugar cookies, family, company, talking in the little kitchen in my grandparents’ house in Nebraska . . . opening our presents then going to their house and opening what my grandparents gave us.  Even last year she sent money to get the kids presents, which I was about to return when my parents told me it would mean more to her if I did what she asked: buy presents.  I did, and when I sent her a card I told her what she bought the kids.  She forever called the boys “my twins” – taking possession of them herself, and loving every picture.  She even hung their pictures on her wall as a badge of honor.

We lost Andrea’s parents, one of my kids’ sets of grandparents.  That’s a harsh reality considering my grandparents lived into their nineties.  Then came the loss of my friend, drummer, and dear friend to my brother, George Marshall.  That was just last week.

So many losses made for so much adjustment and change . . . it seemed the house was the only control I had left.  We got new lights for the outside of the house.  I looked at the way we’d decorated before and come to the realization that, even though Andrea’s presence was heartfelt, some things just weren’t me.  Not any more.  I don’t want’ leopard spotted bows.  I can’t stand the damn chickens she had everywhere in our kitchen.

I bought new ornaments and garland.  I got different lights.  I even bought a bigger tree than we’ve ever had.

It’s a different holiday and I hope it’s the harbinger of better things and newer life in the new year.  I hope to see new adventures and maybe new projects.  It’s not something I’m overwhelmed by I look forward to it.

There’s a hew holiday and I’ve done new things . . . but the ornaments are still the ones given and made over the last 18-19 years.  This is the time of year we honor the past and look forward.  I think we’ve managed this even in the spirit of how we march toward Christmas.


A Change in How We Do Things

Every year, in an attempt to stave off the crowds and the traffic and the insanity of everyone rushing to get their tree and the Black Friday deals and post-holiday chase of pre-holiday shopping and decorating, I avoided it until just a few weeks before Christmas.

But then this year Thanksgiving came late.

Then this year, my oldest daughter was in college and was only home Thanksgiving Thursday until Sunday morning.

It changed the whole routine.

We had our dinner, all of that, I worked on Friday . . . and then I did what I was loathe to do all those years I was married: I started the Christmas rush.  It’s not like it was unwarranted, it’s only a few weeks until Christmas – which is when I normally did all this.  So yesterday I loaded the kids into the car, drove up the hill into the mountains and found our annual tree farm and we got a tree.   We got home, let gravity do its due diligence on the once-wrapped branches and pull them back down, and got out the boxes and boxes of Christmas stuff.

2013-11-30 18.58.34-1I normally wouldn’t do all this in a single day, it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot to deal with having four kids in the house . . . but our time with Abbi, my oldest, was limited.  So we got out the Charlie Brown Christmas record (on green vinyl, no less) – which is the best Christmas record ever, hands-down – and started.  This was, by far, the tallest tree I think I’ve ever gotten.  We had to get a ladder to put on the tree topper.  I had to herd the kids like cats around the tree . . . but we had hot chocolate, listened to jazz-influenced Christmas music, and then went to bed far too late.

Where this could have been a difficult and sad day since Abbi was leaving on Sunday it wasn’t.  She’s returning in just a couple weeks for Christmas.

So today, after she left, I started to put the lights onto the house and realized that the lights we’d used for years were destroyed by a wind storm last year.  I bought new lights, looked like a pregnant penguin trying to climb on the roof in my sad shape, and put them up.  I got in the house, reorganized the way I put up the decorations in there and realized that this was a change we needed.

Each year, you see, we’d tried to decorate the way their mother did it and this year I came to the conclusion: I can’t.  I don’t have the eye, the fortitude, or the patience she did.  I also just don’t have the same style sense.  It seems a little odd for a guy raising his kids – where there are three guys and one girl in the house now – to have leopard spotted bows on a garland across the banister.  So I’m rearranging things.

2013-12-01 19.35.44I got the lights and the garland up.  Santas are placed on the ledge with care.  The stockings are up.  The majority of the house is done.

I worried I may have gone too far afield.  It’s a different kind of tree.  It’s a different way to decorate.  The lights are colored, not all white or all one color.  It’s just totally different.

But just before I sat to write this, Hannah, my middle daughter came down the stairs, not knowing I could hear, and told her brothers: “have I said how much I love our house this time of year?!”

That . . . meant the change had done us some good.

The Night…err…Day of the Doctor

Slate on the Screen just before the movie
Slate on the Screen just before the movie

On Sunday I posted a piece on Rene Syler’s Good Enough Mother about how watching the TV show Dr. Who brings my family together.  You can click on that link if you want to have the details of why.

But tonight, my dear readers, was the night.

You see, normally I don’t get snowed by my kids’ whining or crying or complaining that they don’t get the same things as other kids or that they desperately want to do something.  I don’t even fall for the “I’ll clean the house/bathroom/kitchen/do laundry/clean my room begging, either.  I’ve been parenting alone for too long to fall for that.  If anything, their rooms will look worse and I’ll be lucky to keep the areas of the house where everyone sits in working order.

But when my son, Sam, who never complains much, was talking to the woman cutting his hair a couple weeks ago I overheard him.  He didn’t think I could hear him out in the front lobby, but I did.  He talked, incessantly, about Doctor Who, the 50th Anniversary special (which actually aired – for free – on Saturday November 23rd) and how the theaters were showing it only on Monday, November 25th, and it was in 3D!  That was followed by “but my Dad says we can’t go.  We can still watch it on TV, though.”

Waiting for The Day of the Doctor
Waiting for The Day of the Doctor

So I caved in.  No, it wasn’t from embarrassment, nor was it feeling sorry for Sam.  No, the reason I caved?  The fact that he wasn’t complaining.  The lack of complaint or expectation that I’d take him to the theater just made me make meals with a few more things in the freezer or stretch the grocery budget just a bit so that I could take all three of them to the theater to see it.  I had them have sandwiches for dinner and raced home from work so we could get to the theater in time to print the tickets I’d bought in advance.

2013-11-25 18.38.44When we arrived . . . there was a line out the door.  Literally.  I figured on a Monday night, two days after the show aired on BBC America, there’d be hardly anyone at the theater.  I was so totally wrong.  The first two showings (of four, they had to add 3 more) were sold out when I got there.  (Thank God for Fandango advance tickets)  We saw every permutation of every character from the show.  My sons looked around in wonder, telling me they should have dressed up . . . because nearly everyone was.

2013-11-25 19.00.57The funniest part – and this is truly funny – the theater posted a bunch of security around the people in the queue waiting to go into their respective theaters.  Security.  Like a bunch of geeky people (myself included, not delusional here) dressed up like a silly madman in a blue box standing in line were a riot concern.  “None of us has the strength to hurt anyone,” my daughter Hannah commented.  “It’s not like the crowd that might come to a Metallica movie.”

The theater was packed.  The movie had trivia in front of it.  (Did you know Ridley Scott was originally tasked with creating the Daleks and was moved to a different department at the last minute?!)  A special introduction by a Who alien creature and then by both Matt Smith and David Tennant – stars of the movie – with a cameo by John Hurt.  There was a showing of a making-of after the movie.

And my kids sat, in stunned and abject awe, staring at the 3D screen with their show, larger than life.  When a brief glimpse of the next man to play the Doctor appeared . . . then the eccentric and elusive actor who played the 4th incarnation . . . my kids burst into applause and laughter.  They all knew who they were.

My daughter and her friends
My daughter and her friends

It’s not often I can sit with my kids at an event – and that’s what this was, an event – and be enraptured not by the event itself but by the enthusiasm and happiness of my kids.  But that’s what this was.  Happiness, there’s not other word for it.

2013-11-25 19.19.28Sheer joy – and that’s a word I don’t often use, joy.  But staying up past their bedtime, having Icees, and watching their favorite show, a night of the Doctor (okay, Day of, there was a prequel called “night”.  Sue me)

There was nothing quite so joyous.