I have spent my entire adult life compiling and tweaking my Christmas card list. I have an old address book where it started some decades ago. I still have the address book, although the cover is gone and the pages are worn. I don’t like to turn through it much these days because so many of the people inside those pages no longer have earthly addresses. Tis the season to be jolly fa, la, la, la, la…but also the season for reflection and remembrance and nostalgia and heartache. I had a moment with all of those today.
When I left my job at the church, I made sure I got my personal files off of the computer and stored on a thumb drive to take back home with me. I was there nine years, so I had some personal files on the computer. One of those items was my Christmas Card list. After 20 years, I had this Christmas card list pretty much down to an art. I had tweaked it from year to year—removing when I lost people and adding when my circle of friends increased. This morning after I stuffed my cards in the envelopes, I began looking for my thumb drive. I was at a loss. I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I had stored it. I was working two jobs at the time and I was trying to juggle old stuff and new stuff. I’m sure my brain was all over the place. And my chemo memory is iffy at best.
I looked all day in random places. No thumb drive. Maybe it was just time to begin a new list--start fresh. Maybe this was a sign that I needed to do something different.
I had to pick Natalie up from basketball practice tonight. I sent a text to a friend. This is a friend I met about 15 years ago when we moved back to Covington—a friend that I have shared a lot of things with over the last 15 years—smiles, laughs, tears, prayers, experiences. She probably thought I had lost my bloody mind when she read my Monday night words. I was a bit frantic and desperate sounding. I was all in my feelings and I was thinking back to when the kids were small and we were doing Christmas plays. I was thinking of all the great memories we had raising our kids in the church and it just hit me like a ton of bricks how truly special those times have been and how blessed I am to have experienced that. Then the tears started flowing and they wouldn’t stop. The thing I seem to cry about most these days is that “nothing stays the same" and "I’ll never get that back.”
You’ll never get it back either.
Whatever completely normal thing that you are experiencing right now…it might even seem like a nuisance or a pain right at this second…but one day in the not so distant future you will look back on it with tears in your eyes and wish you could have a do-over. And it won’t be because your life isn’t great now. I love my life today. I just miss portions of the past and people of the past.
I miss being a little girl and going and seeing Lacy’s Lights with my grandparents—the smells, the sounds, the anticipation. My grandparents are gone. And now that season has also passed for my own children. We don’t track Santa on his flight anymore. They don’t write letters to the big jolly man. There is a lot that now lives in my memory and they are GREAT memories but they can also bring me to my knees because they are also laced with grief. Grief is a rat bastard. You will start remembering something or someone and then BOOM! Knocks the wind out of you. Just like that. And nobody can tell you how to do it. We all do it differently and there is no right or wrong way.
Natalie got in the car from basketball practice tonight and I was crying. She asked what in the world was wrong. I told her I wanted to go Christmas Caroling. I used to have a Cookie Exchange and Caroling party. Some of my best Christmas memories are of these parties. It has fallen through the cracks over the last few years and in its place has been travel ball and school ball and obligations and busyness—just not enough days in the week or hours in the days it seems. Natalie told me not to cry and that just the two of us would go caroling. I told her that was hogwash due to the fact that neither of us could carry a tune in a bucket. She then began to tell me all the people we could ask and she said we would do it and make it beautiful.
How lucky am I to have someone who loves me so much to offer to wrangle up a bunch of people to go caroling, just to make Christmas special for me?!
I went on to tell her how I was all in my feelings because of thinking back to the way things used to be. I told her about the stupid thumb drive and I told her how quickly the child rearing years pass us by. I was crying and she was looking for a tissue. She opened up the storage compartment in the dash. No tissues. When she closed it, the stupid thing wouldn’t close. I told her there was too much stuffed in it and I began pulling things out of there so she could shut it. She said it still wouldn’t close. I told her the spring must have popped out and she began digging around for the spring. When she began digging, guess what she found in there?
My thumb drive.
Attached to my church keys.