Another Thanksgiving has come and gone, with Christmas right around the corner. Shortly after that we will start another year.
I both love and dislike this time of year.
The reasons I love it are the obvious ones: time with family, festive hearts and joyful reunions. I start each year looking forward to decorating and shopping, yet somehow still dreading all of it. It’s hard not to start to feel the magic, especially as our young ones anticipate the jolly red-man and his inevitable chimney descent bringing his faithful toy delivery each and every year! Just how does he do it?
I love knowing we will fill our bellies and laugh about the good ‘ole days while we decide whether or not we can stuff just one..more..piece..of..pie…into our already full stomachs (somehow we can always find the room).
I love watching everyone open their gifts, so much more than receiving my own. I love watching the wonder as every once in a while I can actually pull off the “surprise gift”. This year will be no different. There will be the expected gifts that no matter what, they will receive (socks, boxers and briefs, oh my) not very exciting, then there will be the fun ones sprinkled in that add a little excitement (can’t give any hints here in case one of them read this).
Mostly, we will enjoy time with family and for a brief moment, time will slow just enough that we can enjoy the nostalgia that the holidays bring amidst our hectic, busy lives.
For us, days mean more as we stumble along with Bruce and his journey beating back the big “C” word. As a family every holiday season holds a little more meaning than the year prior.
As much as we enjoy the present, its difficult not to think back on the past. Its funny, each year finds me nostalgic but always with a slightly different focus. A couple years ago I found myself really missing my mom. Even through all of our struggles, I found myself missing the sporadic good times we had; the DAILY phone calls and her endless crafting and decor ideas! I was thankful for those good memories. After all, the compliments we sisters receive related to our homes/styling started with her, her creativity and her mind that never stopped moving from idea to idea.
Last year it was all about Daren. In my mind he will forever be the coolest big brother EVA’, although I know he wasn’t perfect, but in my 15 year-old mind and heart, he most definitely was/is. 30+ years later his absence weighs heavy on my heart and as always, I wish things could’ve been so very different that fateful summer day back in ’85.
But this year it’s my dad. I find myself saying, “oh dad, I’m sorry” or “oh dad, I miss you” out loud without even realizing he had been on my mind. I guess that shows how much he is on my mind. In a different world, say the Quantum Leap/Avenger kind, he would be here, the patriarch of our family with each of us fighting for our time with him, and seeking his attention. Each of us reveling in those parts of his heart designated uniquely for us: the first-born son whose time was too brief, the second son who would pave the way for all of us, the third son who was forever his confidante; then the daughter who was his glue, the son who was his shadow, the daughter who was his protector, the daughter who was his greatest love, the baby daughter who melted his heart and lastly, the baby son who was his namesake and mirror (yes, my dad was very fertile (‘FUR-TILE’, MN accent there).
Its normal to think back to ‘what was’ this time of year. In a sense, at least in spirit, we are transported back to those days when we were most innocent and life seemed simpler in some ways, and yet for us, more difficult. Nostalgia is always bittersweet. There is always the good with the bad.
Maybe I am hitting that less than magical age where losing those we love is becoming not only a reality but an expectation. Some are anticipated, others are not. No matter the situation the absence of those we love is felt more than ever this time of year. An empty chair at the holiday feast, a present that would be perfect but now has no owner to gift it to, a Christmas stocking set in place but left empty, ever a gentle reminder that someone is missing.
The holidays, though I love so much about them is a constant reminder of how special each day truly is. So often we go about our busy days bustling through work, juggling schedules, and carpooling kids that we are not left with a chance to miss those that are no longer with us. Not this time of year though. During the holiday season their absence is grander, the memories larger and our hearts a bit fuller, yet emptier.
Last week I had a conversation with a friend at work, she will know who she is when she reads this. This is the same friend that recently lost her brother. This holiday season is their first without him. Ouch. To say they are struggling as a family is an understatement. She said the one. thing. we. always. say. here. in. the. Midwest, “it could be so much worse…and we should be thankful”. I’ve said this before and I will say it again, it could NOT be worse because their hearts are broken RIGHT now. This Christmas is their first chapter in a book that has written his character out. I know that even in a movie, something NOT real, I am often devastated when a favorite character dies. However, this isn’t a movie. This is real life and so I say to my friend, it is okay! to say that this shit really sucks! right now! because it does!
I remember our first Christmas without Daren, dad and then mom. Each one closing a chapter in our lives that would never have a sequel. Instead their chapters simply, devastatingly and finitely ended with “the end”. There will be no Melisandre (Game of Thrones throwback to all of you wondering who this is) around to bring them back, they are just ‘gone’. We fought through each year, every birthday, every Christmas, every wedding, every birth, each holiday season and every new beginning without them. It does get easier. Time does numb the pain but it never really heals our hearts.
That is the bitter.
Now the SWEET!
Elf on the Shelf. NEVER did I think I would be hiding “Buddy the Elf”. BUT on the nights that my brother is working, I am on “Buddy Duty” (as we call it). I walk around with this stuffed 8 inch doll trying to figure out a creative idea/place that Buddy, who was up to mischief all night…finally landed upon to stay. Some nights when I’m tired (okay every night), I’m a tiny bit irritated. BUT that all dissipates the next morning, when like clock work Noli comes out of his room at 625am and stumbles around, one eye open searching for our mischievous holiday house guest. When he finds him, there is always a slight smile, and some moments of contemplation as to how Buddy got himself into some of his predicaments, battles, games and heroic theatrics. How do you NOT find the sweetness in that? It makes me smile every morning…. (Note: Chad imagined the featured image of Elf and Groot making hot chocolate idea…KUDO’s lil’ bro, I was both annoyed (kitchen counter in front of coffee maker) YET, I thought it was ingenious and funny!
What are we doing for the holidays, I mean the whole Anderson lot of us? We have NO idea. We are still trying to figure out when we are gonna get together for our Anderson holiday! Of course, this will be NO surprise to anyone as usually anything we plan is decided upon after much procrastination and deliberation, followed by hasty decision making that often just ends with, “let’s just get together this spring….”. L.O.L
YES…our dad is forever ALIVE in each of us STILL (Anderson=late to everything, can’t make decisions and PROcrastination!), much to the dismay, chagrin and finally, resigned acceptance from the in-laws (hey, we FULLY warn everyone (ahead of time) that in the fine print of their marital license (into our family) it clearly states, “these people are THE most procrastinating, frustrating, and dysfunctional, yet totally awesome people ever”)……
So. We will get together but usually it goes something like this: one of the farther away sibs comes to Rochester RANDOMLY and then the other sibs hear about it and by natural gravitation they end up coming over and then we end up with a houseful of DOGS (because i’m fairly certain that between us all the dogs probably outnumber the grandkids!), kids, sibs and the ‘laws and we EAT! You know, Anderson Style gatherings.
(Not?)Funny? but true story: for the first few years poor Becky almost went INSANE with the LOT of us. She had NO idea that she had to tell us to be somewhere HOURS ahead of said/established/planned time for whatever the event was. She didn’t realize that everything with our family ends with -ish. So if you say 12, we hear 12-ish and that means ANYTIME after 12 🤣
But know this, when we DO get together it is total SWEETness! Because we are all STILL together, the lot of us that are left. We will continue on, together as we have for so many years, reveling in each other and finding calm amidst the chaos. We laugh, we argue (about politics, religion and anything else Bruce can instigate with Roxy or Ally, he loves a good family-friendly debate), at times we may shed a tear but always, we just love the time we do get to spend together! That is when we do actually, finally and randomly gravitate together.
So yes, for us this season and every season has it’s dose of bitter but more than that, it has its hefty does of SWEET!
I hope y’all find your own bitterSWEETness this holiday season and for those tasting their first bitter of this season, know that the next will be more of a dark chocolate, followed with sweet milky chocolate SWEETness for future gatherings.
Happy bitterSWEET Holidays to ALL!