I remember the magic of the holidays when I was younger. Time went by at a much slower pace waiting for that one special night followed by a day of jolly and cheer. Christmas Eve we would spend with my mom’s side of the family surrounded by aunts, uncle, cousins and grandparents. Each year my grandfather would wear a Santa hat and I’d help him pass out the presents until he wasn’t here for Christmas anymore.
Sneaking a peek from the stairs to see the presents left behind by Santa and waiting for my parents to give us the ok so we could rush in and create a wrapping paper tornado – A full day of new things and new memories. After cleaning up the merry mess, there’d be just a few hours with the new toys until we had to leave them behind to go see family. Of course growing up changed the holidays a bit but, for me, the magic was still there. The holidays were predictable and safe.
My job in animal care limited the places I could work and so, in my mid 20s, I ventured off to San Diego. What I didn’t know was that decision would limit my holidays with my family. Time zones, travel costs and the difficulties of taking time off resulted in no family Christmas for ten years. Back than, I was ok with living my dream and having the phone passed around to all the relatives. I knew each year I’d get to say Happy Holidays until all of a sudden I couldn’t. I realized that it didn’t matter how much I spent and sent, I was missing the magic.
December 25, 2017 was the first without my dad and a full knowing that it was Clayton’s last. There was no point in getting him all the things because we knew he wouldn’t be here to enjoy them so we poured time into decorating and baking all the cookies he wanted. It was the first year that I really understood where the true magic of the season was generated.
This has been the 4th Christmas without Clayton, the 5th without my dad and there’s nothing Santa can do to change that. It took a while to accept my losses but I just keep remembering that following the North Star will eventually get me closer to the next Christmas. I’ve been given the greatest grief gift of all and that is gratitude for the true magic of the season. It’s the memories of red Santa hats, stuffed animals and acute awareness of the truly short time we have together…