Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Missing Joan at Christmas

When I was a kid, there was nothing in the world more exciting than celebrating Christmas with my family. We were all together, everyone was extra nice to each other, we had presents and peace and joy and goodwill to man. It was way, way up there in a special category of its own and nothing even came close.

It got even more awesome when I was twelve and my sister-in-law Joan joined the family. She took it up a notch (or ten) with her perfect gift bags filled with excessive amounts of tissue paper and huge bunches of sparkly, curly ribbons on top. The gifts themselves were always awesome – one of my favourites was the Beatles Early Years cassette, which coincidentally is the exact same album Jim & Sabrina gave Spencer for Christmas this year - but even better than the gifts was her laughter and excitement and Christmas spirit. She made everything more fun with her sense of humour and love of life. She would bring little houses made of Toblerone with After Eight roofs to put at each place setting and tubs of gummy bears. When my nephews were born, she’d dress them in baby elf and Santa sleepers and we’d all laugh our head off at how cute they were and it was all so awesome. I should point out that every single person in my family contributes to the awesomeness in their own way and if anything happened to any one of them, I would write something nice about them too. I really hope I don’t have to.
Last Christmas: two-thirds of my beautiful sister-in-laws

Anyway, with all people and things combined, Christmas was so magical that every year when the day came to an end, I would have this dark little voice in my head telling me that this might be the last year we would all be together. I believe it started around the time that Teresa lost her dad and I realized how life could change in an instant, and I still think it every single year.  

This year was the year that I was dreading. Missing a loved one at Christmas is as bad as I always feared it would be. There was a huge hole that sucked out much of the usual excitement and made it feel heavy and melancholy (I don’t think I’ve ever used the word melancholy before, but it fits). My brother and nephew deserve a lot of credit for showing up and making it through the day with us. I know I’m fortunate to have had forty-four years of celebrating Christmas with all of my family alive, but it makes me sad that my nephews only got about half that and Teresa’s kids got even less. It just isn’t fair.

But we still had some good times. We played games and ate and talked and laughed. The ping pong games in the garage were limited to those who were okay with the possibility of a lynx attack and also able to withstand strong gas fumes. Jim may have won the most games, but he probably also had the worst headache so it probably wasn’t worth it. We also had a lot of fun trying to access the iPad we gave my parents. Jim had set it up in advance but forgot the passcode. The rest of us are pretty excited that we have something to mock him about for the rest of our lives. To his credit, he figured out how to wipe it clean and start over. If I have to write a tribute about him someday, I’ll have lots of material.  

I shouldn’t even joke about that. But if you can’t joke, you may as well be dead. Laughter is the best medicine and all that.


Cool shoe painting craft from Dan & Jenn

We went out for dinner with Mike & Darla the other day and Darla suggested that I do a blogging blitz to end the year. It took me two days to write this post so it’s not going to be much of a blitz, but since blogging is a nice complement to my current schedule of puzzling, reading, and eating chocolate peanut butter balls, I’ll give it a shot. Especially since today is already the 30th.


Anonymous said...

A beautiful post, Ellen. The pain of missing someone is a difficult thing to bear. It is so wonderful that you have such a large family to get each other through these challenges. I actually found myself envying that (the large family, not the heartache). I wish I had known Teresa and Joan.

The story of the iPad is too funny, and I love all the photos of everyone, especially the pyjama one. The facial expression on the smaller version of Bella/Lexi ( I always mix up who is who) is hilarious!!

Lots of love


Anonymous said...

Very nice post Ellen. That's cool Joan got you that same album/cassette. Ya, wasn't quite the same without her. Sabrina couldn't gather all the tissue paper for next yrs gifts! I feel special that you'll write something nice about me if I die. Costa Rica Ping Pong Champ? Best mullet? Toughest ipad passcode? Just some ideas for you. Jim