This is the month where half of me wants to be lounging on a sofa, feet up, holiday music playing, a scented candle releasing tidings of comfort and joy, and a dish of favorite Armenian sugar cookies at finger’s reach.
My other half has already dismantled the tree and is cleaning out closets, eagerly awaiting Macy’s annual white sale and a chance to exhale.
“Stay in the moment,” my mind tells my heart. Be. Here. Now.
It’s a tall, nearly impossible order.
Closing my eyes, I see him as a toddler wearing a Superman cape, twirling in the sunlight, giggling, laughing, befriending lizards, iguanas, spiders and stray dogs. He’s wearing a wetsuit, boogie boarding, and jumping waves 10 times his size.
He loved our summers at the beach but loved Christmas and chocolate Advent calendars even more. This morning I had visions of the silver candy kiss wrappings I used to discover everywhere – hiding behind pillows, underneath chairs, in bathroom drawers.
He was my Cool Whip Kid – the child possessing a sweet tooth for miniature marshmallows, raw cookie dough, tapioca pudding – anything made from a batter. After we lost him, holidays would forever be bittersweet.
December brings memories to life
Like it or not, December brings these distant memories to life. Freeze-frame moments start breathing all over again and neither Bing Crosby nor Michael Bublé can hit a note high enough to untangle the melancholy.
My neighbor, Karen, an intuitive and caring woman, a keen observer of life, leaves a bottle of “Whispering Angel,” a blush wine, at my doorstep. I make a mental note of the genuine goodness in people.
A few weeks ago, my mother and I drove to the cemetery and placed flowers at my father and son’s graves – both of us unusually quiet, reflective. At 90, she’s had her share of health scares this year but remains feisty, passionate, spirited and independent. Her walk slightly unsteady these days, she sat in the car – both door and eyes wide open while I arranged bouquets for her tacit approval.
The sun casting its sunbeam through the clouds gave her an ethereal glow – the kind I wish I could bottle up and hold on to forever. The majestic sky, almost periwinkle in hue, was a perfect backdrop for the chorus of birds chirping as if to soothe us with song, invite a smile, unleash the years of sorrow.
A new year’s resolution
Arriving home and raising the blinds, I vowed to let (more) light enter in 2017.
A few days later, my daughter and her clan moved in, suitcases and backpacks in tow while their home gets remodeled. Despite the chaos, this turned out to be an unexpected gift – the kind born of wonder.
Watching in awe, I wonder how she and her husband manage such a large household, how homework, laundry and shopping get done, how sanity and sense of humor remain intact and how everyone is dressed and out the door in time for school.
There is another wonder, too. I witness it late one evening as my husband, Dan, lifts the grandkids – each insistent to place their ornament on the highest of branches. Their eyes sparkle and dance, tiny fingers reaching for the stars and moon, a kind of magic only a child can deliver.
A time for family
A week from now, the rest of our family will converge, bringing arrival of more children than adults. In all, there will be three sets of twins, eight cousins, seven adults and my mom, the matriarch and leader of the pack.
Before the front door closes behind them, shoes, socks, suitcases, stuffed animals, sippy cups and Ziploc bags overflowing with Cheerios will be scattered everywhere. Beautiful chaos, voices at full volume, cousins negotiating bedtime and sleeping arrangements. I will recite my breathing mantra and hope for the best. (The children were nestled all snug in their bed, while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.)
This morning, I am wildly aware that this is “the calm before the storm.” Pouring a refill of coffee, propping myself up in bed, I contemplate reading a second newspaper and catching some extra winks.
A few days from now, I will sink into my annual blissful collapse – stacks of dishes wading in soapy water, gift-wrap paper carpeting the floor, a trail of crumbs here, there, everywhere. And Dan entering to save the day, coaxing me to bed, assuring me the mess will be waiting for us in the morning. Happily exhausted, I will fall asleep counting my blessings.
In the craziness of our mad and mixed-up world, this is my December wish for you, too.
Armen D. Bacon of Fresno is a writer and co-author of “Griefland: An Intimate Portrait of Love, Loss and Unlikely Friendship” and two collections of essays, “My Name is Armen – A Life in Column Inches” and “My Name is Armen – Outside the Lines.” Write to her at email@example.com, @ArmenBacon.