Bing Crosby crooned so many years ago that he would be home for Christmas whether in his dreams or not. The sentiment in that song suggested yearning and hope and the cherished arms of family surrounding the person who had been away from loved ones for some time. It was a prayer and a lament for one who was far from home and longed to be sitting at that familiar and safe hearth. I know that longing very well. I left my home to follow my dreams, going on 40 years now. My pining for home during the holidays was deep and strong but after some time I slowly settled where I was. And if truth be told in all of those years I have only been home for a handful of Christmases.
Looking back, it was not for lack of wanting or trying. Some years I just did not have the money to go home. I suppose I could have asked for it but that was something I was never comfortable with. I felt that I had made this choice to go and I had to live by it. During the passing of years, however, life kind of starting folding in on itself. I have always loved the holidays so I began creating my own Christmas traditions with the loved ones I was with and in the place I was already. I have been fortunate to have had friends to celebrate with. I had a boyfriend, then I had a husband. Then we had a child and then we had another.
We started our own family traditions around our own hearth. The times I went back to my family home, I was in those wonderful celebrations but I was no longer of them. Their Christmas traditions folded in on themselves to adjust to my absence. I have held some of those traditions for my own little family. Certain foods on Christmas day. A festive tree and twinkling lights. But we have created many new traditions for ourselves. I am grateful that my children have memories that have kept their own home alive for them.
The beauty of not being home for Christmas is that you are open to the myriad of ways people celebrate. It could be Christmas but it could just as well be Hanukkah. It could also be Ramadan or Kwanzaa. It could be the Winter Solstice. Wonderful traditions, ceremonies, foods to celebrate the end of a year and the promise of the new one. December is everyone’s month and it is no one’s. Who could possibly claim it for themselves alone? The lights of the stars shine on everyone and I have yet to meet someone from any background who does not wish upon them. It’s a joy to learn other ways to celebrate. Those magical and joyous days are filled with such beauty.
Now my own children are adults. Now they are moving away and creating their own traditions. I find that hard. I find that karma has caught up with me in many ways although I am not really certain that’s how it works. It just feels that way. I want everything to stay the same and it doesn’t. It can’t. That is not the nature of time nor of life. If I have learned anything it has to be this. Some days I can find the traditions that make me long for those more innocent days when I was a child myself. But more often I celebrate the myriad of beautiful traditions that come to me from many sources. Life is a prism. It is a collage. It is the melting pot we are blessed with. What could be more magical then that?
Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Eid Mubarak. Blessed Be. May you be home wherever you are.
The fall season has always been the most amazing, magical three months of the year for me ever since I could remember. It probably has something to do with having my birthday during that time, and later included my anniversary at the same time but it also had to do with the fall leaves, Thanksgiving, Halloween and the first snow. It became even more special when it became my season of motherhood 29 years ago. I think back on that time and I remember it as a time of wonder and fear and determination not to mess this up.
It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to have your body accept the fact that for nine months, life will be about taking care of something beyond oneself. I did research and yoga and stopped drinking coffee and wine. I took vitamins and slept in and read whatever books on parenting I could get my hands on although there really is no manual that truly prepares you. I grew a child inside of me and then I grew another. How lucky I have been, how favored I have felt. Why was I blessed with this gift when so many other worthy women were denied? Is it just nature or is it fate or something bigger than any of us could ever imagine? Whatever is at play allowed me to experience that indescribable state of being that I know has little to do with biology. Motherhood.
The biggest realization I had once I held that baby was that this was it. I was responsible for this life, this tiny being, for the rest of mine. It was frightening and I wasn’t sure I could do it. And yet the choice had been made. I was a mother. I am a mother. It is a role I willingly accepted and was gratefully granted. I could not have asked for more amazing children. I have had to learn that children are not always what you want them to be but they are how they were meant to be. I have doubted myself so many times. I have been in many situations as a mother that were fraught with ruminating over the actions taken, the words spoken and fearing the worst outcome. I have often felt I was not the right mother for my children but then at other times I was. And what did it matter? I am their mother. For better, for worse. Forever.
I often think of my own mother and motherhood. How often I wished for a reset button so that I could have handled a situation better. I have been accused of treating my children differently and I accept that. They are different. And if we celebrate their differences then we cannot be punished for different treatment of them. That has caused some tensions and anger and spiteful words. I get it. I am certain I was not the child my own mother could relate to and I am sure she felt the same confusion I have felt at times. That comes with the job. But we have always loved each other. Parenting is not about wanting cookie cutter children. It’s about embracing the lives of those you have been gifted with.
I am so proud and grateful for my children and yes still profoundly afraid for them in this wild, unpredictable world. But all of their decisions are out of my hands. My hovering and worry did nothing stop the passage of time or to hold back the scary things that did cross our paths and threaten to derail us. I realize in many ways worry is wasted energy yet perhaps it is the only thing I have had control of. When I do let it go, it comes as a great relief although it never lasts as long as I hope. No one ever promised me a rose garden and even if they did, those beauties are full of thorns too.
Mother, mommy, mom. It’s a role I have to relearn every day. It’s a wish and a prayer. It’s hope and joy and deep down fear. It’s many, many stumbles and trying to get it right when there is no clear right. It’s basic and it’s human. I have to forgive myself for that. For maybe not being the mother that I had hoped to be or the one I should be. But I am who I am meant to be. For better, for worse. Forever.