Thursday, December 26, 2013

Eleven days of Christmas

It is Christmas in Cleveland.

There are some things that you can deduce:  It was nearly 70 degrees a few days ago. This morning, it was 17 with a dusting of snow.  A white Christmas is seldom ruled out as a possibility here, but the ambiance offered by snow is not what makes for holiday cheer in our home.

Truth be told, I was struggling with it a bit this year.  I usually bake for dozens of people, work my Christmas cards early, decorate enthusiastically, both inside and out... I suppose that this year I was a little gun shy, because Christmas has not been my friend in recent memory, although the surgical trend is certainly in our favor: Two pediatric surgeries with the cancer double bonus for Christmas in 2011, only one surgery with talk of amputation in December of 2012...  These recollections are not the nostalgic stuff that you weave into song.  It is the ghost of Christmas past taking up residence in my heart, and it was kind of killing my mojo.

The ghost of Christmas future is no better a houseguest, for the record.  We are backed up against scans, which means the confident glow of good results has begun to fade.  Our 3 month period of grace has about finished and we are waiting to see if we can re-up with NED.   I have thought about moving our scans so that they fall in early December next year, because I would love to not think about scans at all during the holidays, except for the reassurance that recent imaging brings.

There is a stress that goes with Christmas for a lot of people.  I have always been a firm believer in doing only what brings you joy, rather than what people expect.  This year, there wasn't a load of baking here, because I just didn't feel it.  Some cards are going out a little late, much to Dan's chagrin.  However, I do not think that folks will mind. I have never been one to get stressed out about the trappings, or about timeliness when it comes to truly optional things.

Part of my discomfort in December this year though, was guilt.  I ought to have been deliriously happy, rather than distracted, or worried.  I happen to know people who have real and pressing worries, and I am unable to help them in the way that I would like.  So, I was feeling rather inadequate, too.  My funk settled in.

However, falling in and amongst the nagging angst of the past, and worry about the future over the last several weeks, was my five year old daughter, Olivia. She brings me joy immeasurable. Her excitement about making gifts for people that she loves was disastrous to a clean kitchen as she perched at the counter engrossed in her visions and industry. The trail of paper scraps perpetually littering the floor as she fashioned all sort of art projects will not get us featured in Better Homes and Gardens.  But she has certainly helped me out of my funk with her crafting, her singing and her story telling. 

Everyone should enjoy the company of a 5 year old at Christmas.  Her enthusiasm was so infectious, I found myself catching a bit of holiday cheer. I could rent her out next year, watch her make a mess at some grumpy person's house, return with her to our own clean house and make a bundle. (win, win, win!)  I should get busy on that business plan. ;)

A dear friend of ours arranged for us to have a family photos made.  She called, offering this wonderful gift, noting that things are currently good, and that we are all well.  She knows that I would not likely think to do this on my own, and I am very grateful that she provided the opportunity.  As we gathered in her barn on a drippy evening last week, I found myself smiling at Olivia, proudly decked out in her "cowgirl boots" and hat.  She was so joyful.  Brent found a kitten to play with, and giggled in delight.  Alex and Lauren took charge of our two dogs, who were fascinated with the interesting smells of new, and much larger animals. It was all a hoot.

We took many photos. I was overwhelmed at one point, thinking of how fragile our future is, this awareness and understanding coming from our very rocky past.  My thoughts of next year do not come with any basic assumptions anymore. I do not think about the distant future in a general way, I realized.  Those two ghosts were creeping into the barn, and I struggled for a moment with how to get rid of them.

Because, really, I have found that happiness for me, comes from embracing a series of todays, and celebrating our daily gift of companionship. Worry about the future can only rob me of what the present has to offer.  That time in the barn, all of us together, well, that was a gift. As I move through this life, gliding from one moment to the next, I am hopeful that I maintain the innocence, the generosity and acceptance of Olivia. 

She was enchanted with the arrival of Santa at our house on the 23rd (a tradition borne of chemo, fatigue and neutropenia two years ago)  She excitedly passed out the gifts that she made for the people that she loves. The Ramers have stretched the family holiday visits over 8 days, although yesterday, Olivia announced to all that there were 11 days of Christmas and could not be dissuaded from this position.  I am not going to feel ripped off, failing to get the full 12 days heralded in song.  I choose instead to count it as a 10 day bonus.

We have enjoyed our time as a family, playing games together, sharing laughter and memories and love.  Today, I might finish sending out our holiday greetings with the bonus time of extended Christmas.  I am truly enjoying it, moment by moment, despite the slow start.

I hope that you have enjoyed it as well, surrounded by family and wrapped in love.

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