By Carmelene Melanie Siani
I married a widower whose late wife of 48 years had always had a “huge Christmas”—all the trimmings. All the presents. The big tree. The daughter coming over from the U.K.
The first year David and I were together was his first year without his previous lifetime companion. I thought I wouldn’t roll out the whole Christmas thing myself. It might be too hard for him and trying to be respectful I decided, “he won’t mind if I put a Christmas tablecloth on the table.”
He did mind. In fact, he walked in the door, saw the red Christmas tablecloth and exploded. “Why?” “What!” “I hate Christmas!”
Recognizing his temper as being out of character for him, I quickly dismantled the table, folded the tablecloth, and put everything away. Of course he was sorry. Of course he apologized, and of course, he said it had nothing to do with his late wife. He just, “hated Christmas. Always did hate Christmas.”
Somehow, I never quite believed him and over the years I have always thought that in fact, he probably doesn’t “hate Christmas” at all. What he hates is all the feelings that it brings—the feelings he didn’t know he still had, the feelings that are not “merely feelings” but that, all squished together, are really the rages of his loss and grief.
Then, yesterday, almost six years to the day since we were married, my husband—out of the blue—quietly said, “Why don’t you and I start a Christmas ritual of our own?”
Having learned to be not so much in his face about Christmas as to put a red table cloth out without talking with him first, I suggested that, instead of putting up trees, making fruit cakes and buying tons of presents (you know, going the whole route), maybe we begin with one thing.
“Maybe we should find out what Christmas actually means to us in our life together as a couple,” I suggested.
I had happened to know that his late wife hadn’t used an Advent calendar in her preparations.
“How about we start with an Advent calendar,” I asked, explaining that I’d read somewhere that Advent is a time to admit that there is darkness, to mark the time it takes to get through that darkness and to head for the light.
Maybe he was through the darkness.
We went online, looked for and found an advent calendar that was perfect for us—for us as a couple and for him as a man who truly doesn’t “hate Christmas” but who now has well, who now has the room in his heart for both the memory of his late wife and Christmas.
That was when I realized that there not being room in one’s heart for grief could pretty much be a metaphor for there not being room at the inn for the original Christmas family. I told David of this similarity. “Very interesting,” he said, and we agreed.
We had begun our new Christmas ritual after all.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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