So first the love:
We’ve baked cookies for Santa every year since DD1 was 3 years old. Even when my family was bursting apart during years 5 and 6, I trotted out the flour and pre-made the dough, then rolled it out the next morning. It’s a recipe handed down from my grandma, to my mom, to me. With home-made icing, to boot. When DD1 turned 5, I started inviting her pals over, and now it’s a tradition with her two besties. I don’t’ know what I’ll do when DD2 gets older—it’s already quite the flour explosion everywhere with just the four of them! But I love it. The small things—setting up the table and trays. Rolling out the dough and helping them with the cookie cutters. DD2 helping me mix up the icing while the big girls were upstairs playing after the first batch was put into the oven. She took a deep breath (I use lemon extract for flavoring) and said, “mmmmm, mommy, it smells yummy!” Just made my heart melt. I know how familiar smells will “take you back” to a memory in time—it happens to me every now and again. I wonder if lemon icing will be a marker for DD1 and DD2 one day, if they will remember these holiday times of baking cookies with their friends in our house, giggling, laughing, eating while “working.”
The first time we left the cookies out for Santa, DD1 woke up at the crack of dawn on Christmas day. I heard her little feet thump, thump, thumping down the stairs, then rushing back upstairs, running into my room, I opened my eyes to her face leaning into mine: “he ATE them, mommy!” she cried excitedly, “ he ATE them! They’re all gone!” And how I leaped out of bed and followed her downstairs to verify that he had, indeed, eaten them.
I guess this is where some of the melancholy sets in—this year Christmas week is the Ex’s. And I’ve had two whole years to get used to the new schedule, but it’s still my first Christmas morning without them. The sleepy wake up and the checking of the cookies and stockings.
It is why we had to bake them so early--our normal tradition is Christmas Eve morning and he has the week end before Christmas, so I told the girls we’d freeze some for Santa, lol. We have to make the best of the situation. But I will miss that sleepy, before dawn wake up call.
The girls will come over Christmas day for a few hours, and they’ll see an empty cookie plate, and they’ll have stockings and presents galore. I know I’m blessed in this and that our life is so different now, in good ways. In the ways that matter.
It’s a balance—cherishing the lovely moments and at the same time, handling the topsy-turvy emotions that the holidays always bring up. The meaning of family, and my “family” has had so many problems—the one I grew up with, and the one that I tried to create with the girls’ father.
Some more love: both girls are old enough to “help” me when we bake for our neighbors and their teachers. We did the big hand-out yesterday for the teachers and on Sunday afternoon for our neighbors. Seriously, my heart swoons, seeing them hard at work stirring and cracking eggs and rushing over to knock on doors to hand over their home made treats. It’s my gentle wish for them to experience the “giving” part of the season, that it’s not all about Santa and glitzy presents, although DD1 told me she likes giving AND receiving, ha! But hopefully the giving part of the spirit is taking hold.
So now it’s the close of 2014 and we are forging a new family, a new life. I am so blessed and wish more than anything it will all be smooth sailing from here, but I know there are Ex battles on the horizon, as much as I wish they could be set aside. Like I’ve told others and have others tell me—we can only make the best of what is in front of us, we cannot control how others behave, we can only control how we react. We can only choose how we live. We can only embrace the sweet and good parts of the season and do our best to let go of the bitter in the bittersweet.
And I also think: no one is perfect. Even if you or I have built a new life, a new family, there are moments that it’s okay to mourn what was lost. It’s part of our story, part of how we arrived. So take those melancholy feelings, and embrace them too, and even thank them, for somehow, the melancholy and the heartache—that strength it took to live through them—is why you survived in the first place. But do your best to let them go, to forgive your mistakes and be gentle with you. Because we are in a new place now, and it’s okay to be happy, even if you feel the vestiges of sadness, that very sadness is a testament to what you overcame to be happy now. At least—I tell myself this for comfort.