Holiday time is often a real bummer when you’ve lost your spouse. Holidays seem to shine a brighter light on the fact that there is a missing person. When I first met Mario, he had grown to hate Christmas. I think he felt like after his parents divorced, there was just a lot of tension or drama and as he got older, it felt like having to put on an act for his maternal grandparents each year. It was nothing against them at all. I think he just was in a different phase of his life at that time and just didn’t vibe with their version of the holiday.
I tried to convince him that in my family, there really wasn’t any drama around the holidays because it was just me, my mom and my dad. I never even got to meet my maternal grandfather because he passed away a few years before I was born. My maternal grandmother lived across the country in Pennsylvania and passed away when I was 11. My paternal grandparents were “not speaking” to my dad for the first 7 years of my life then out of the blue one day showed up at the house. Let’s just say, they were not the “loving grandparents” archetype. There might have been a few years while I was growing up where aunts and uncles (or the paternal grandparents on rare occasion) swung by for Thanksgiving or Christmas, but for the most part, it was just the 3 of us. I loved that time of year when I was a kid and have many fond memories from back then I think because there really was no stress or drama involved.
It took a number of years before Mario actually took me up on visiting my folks for Christmas. If memory serves, it was Christmas of 2004 and we hopped in my old Honda Hatchback, with our cat, and traveled down to San Diego county and the house where I grew up. I remember him saying afterwards, on our drive home, something along the lines of, “You know, that was really chill, I liked it!”. From there on out, he was fine with our low-key Christmas.
Something we also enjoyed doing together was decorating the Christmas tree. I’ve always had a fake tree since I always had at least 1 cat and didn’t want to risk anyone eating pine needles (that’s actually really bad for pets). We went through a whole phase of buying wacky glass ornaments. The more un-Christmas-like the better. Mario’s favorite one was a cobra, of all things. So that one was always prominently displayed. Over the years we probably amassed a hundred or so including a number of rabbits, cats, an octopus, owls, a ufo, a bigfoot, a Buddha and many others.
This year was the first since he’s been gone that I didn’t bust out the cobra because this is my newest cat, Kala’s first Christmas and I had no idea if she was going to be one of those climb up the tree and knock it over cats (turns out, she’s not, whew!). Basically, I didn’t want to risk that and many of the other glass ones breaking.
I’m still pretty new to this doing the holidays without your spouse thing (this is officially the 3rd Christmas now). We had no kids, so it’s just me and 3, going on 4, cats (the cats are another whole story in itself). Mario’s last Christmas is still pretty fresh in my mind. I remember the last gift he gave me (a cookbook) and the last gift I gave him (a complicated puzzle made out of wood). It honestly seems like it could have been yesterday. Like I’ll go downstairs after I post this and he’ll be laying on the couch, watching tv. THAT’S the sort of thing that makes me sad, not so much “the holidays” themselves. It’s just a cascade of memories of all holidays past that we shared together that are just that, in the past. No new holiday memories will include him, as much as I’d wish he were still here.