For the first five years of my life, my dad and my mom celebrated Christmas in our house – it was such an integral part of my early childhood that I never got over my love of Christmas, no matter how much my Jewish identity said I should not want or need a Christmas tree, or decorations around the house, or Christmas carols, or the same Christmas classic movies year after year.
But it didn’t matter what anyone said, not my college boyfriend, not his family (I adored them), not my step-family, conservative Jews from New York, whom I loved, not my fellow Jews in the Jewish Federation Young Adults Group – I loved Christmas – everything about the season makes me feel happiness, joy, and full of life – no matter how old I get, or what is happening in my life year after year.
It is not hard to understand when I watch the home movies from my early life before Mom and Dad divorced, with Nana and Pop-Pop, Uncle Randy and my cousin, Carly, my dog, Misty, and my Aunt Lynn, and all the presents and lights and beautiful colors everywhere around us. Everyone smiling and a house filled with people.
After Mom and Dad divorced, my dad did convince my stepmom to let us have a Christmas tree a couple of times, and we had presents on Christmas morning and Santa Clause and it was wonderful, but that did not last long.
After that time, and throughout all these years, I have spent most Christmases alone.
When I was a teenager, my family did not approve of me bringing my love of Christmas into the shared spaces of the house, but they did not stop me from decorating my own bedroom. Until I left to go to college, I had to keep my Christmas celebrations, including Christmas music, to myself.
In college, my roommates went home to Northern California to be with their families. But, every year, we put up an artificial Christmas tree in the living room of the house we shared. When I was alone during those winter breaks, I used to love listening to Christmas music for hours while I lay on the couch, reading romance novels and admiring our tree decorated in large multi-colored bulbs.
After graduating from college I lived in various roommate situations in San Diego where we always had a Christmas tree, but it was often not my own tree – the landlady decorated it or I shared it with other roommates.
I didn’t mind at the time, but I did look forward to living on my own and picking out my own Christmas tree one day and decorating the whole house with my own Christmas decorations that I picked out myself. I had a favorite place to find them: the Curie Craft Fair in University City – every year on the first Saturday of November.
I was thinking just the other day – I miss the Curie Craft Fair so much.
Believe it or not, it was not until 2007 that my wish came true. I moved into the Grayson’s condo, and the rental had vaulted ceilings and the unit had enough space overall that I could finally not only have my own full-sized Christmas tree (not just the little grocery store tabletop ones), but I also finally had space for all the Christmas knickknacks I had bought from the vendors at the Curie Craft Fair over the last 7 years.
It was a dream come true. And I had Toby with me, too. So I wasn’t really alone.
Two years later, my other lifelong dream came true. My boyfriend, Audie Roberts, proposed to me on Christmas Eve under a different Christmas tree, at the Hotel Del Coronado.
Every Christmas dream I had ever had came true that Christmas Eve in 2009.
The following year, Audie and I got married, and we held our wedding reception on December 28th, which was my grandparents’ wedding anniversary. It was also a dream of mine.
That was a long time ago. It feels like a lifetime that never really happened at all.
Everything is so different now.
This year, Lizzie is gone. Audie has moved on with his life. And Christmas dreams are a thing of the past, a past that does not feel real to me anymore, except the photographs remind me it really happened.
It was real, for a little while.
I wasn’t sure I would want a Christmas tree this year, or to put up decorations, for just me…and Reggie.
The house feels so empty, even filled with all of the Christmas decorations that I have more than enough space for, and the 7-8 foot tree that is so tall it reaches high up to the ceiling.
I knew this Christmas would be the hardest one of my life to date, but I was not prepared for the depth of the sadness I feel – I never imagined with a lifetime full of happiness at Christmastime that I could feel such loneliness, such grief and loss.
It does not feel like Christmas. And I wonder, will I ever feel joy at Christmas again?
I hope I will, but right now, it is hard to imagine that the bittersweet reminder of Audie getting down on one knee that night and asking, “Will you marry me, sweetheart?” will ever stop hurting.
When I was a little girl, I always made a Christmas list of all the toys I wanted: Barbie Dolls and Mattel toys and books and so many other things, like every child, there were so many things I wanted.
This year, I have a grown-up Christmas list.
I wish for my heart to heal.
I wish to feel happiness and joy at Christmas again.
I wish to be able to trust in love again.
I wish for Audie and I to be friends again, if nothing else.
I wish for Audie to look back on me with love, not with hate.
I wish for Reggie to get well and to be with me for a few more Christmases, at least.
I wish for all the children separated from their families to be reunited.
I wish for all the seniors who are cold, hungry and alone to have warmth, food and companionship.
I wish for all the people who have lost homes to fires, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes to find new homes again.
I wish for us all to pull together to stop the advance of climate change.
I wish for all the children who are sick to be cured.
I wish for homeless dogs and cats to be rescued.
I wish for an end to child abuse and animal abuse forever.
I wish for the women to be believed.
I wish for good health care to be available to everyone.
I wish for military families to be reunited at the holidays.
I wish for people in this country to stop hating each other for our differences and to love each other for our common humanity.
I wish to feel true love again.
Most of all, I wish for forgiveness, for me, for Audie, and for everyone who seeks it from those they’ve wronged.
Because we’re all human. We all make mistakes. And we all deserve to be remembered, and loved, for the good in us, and for the happiness we once gave to those we love.