I’ve been trying to figure out, during the past few years, why it is that Christmas just doesn’t feel the same anymore. There are many reasons: I am older, I know about Santa, I no longer live at home, most of my grandparents are gone, my parents are divorced, my older brother is living away and no longer comes home for Christmas, the house I grew up in is no longer available to “go home to”.
I have a lot of fond memories of Christmas. I remember the anticipation of waiting for the day. Once I was old enough, I was in charge of some of the decorating. In my usual style, this meant doing things exactly the same as every other year. I find change discomforting, and familiarity and repetition soothing.
There is a part of me who desperately wants to be that little girl, staring out my Christmas-lit bedroom window, watching the snow through the light of the street lamp, just taking the time to look at all of the surrounding houses, streets, hills, and lights. Waking up early, quietly waiting for 7:30am, the earliest we were allowed to go downstairs. My older brother and I taking the “long way around” on Christmas morning to see our gifts, according to the plan we mapped out and then stuck in the secret hiding place (do the people who own my old house even know that that hiding place exists?) Watching my younger brother open his presents, discovering that they were clothes, and chucking them over his shoulder to get to the better stuff. Having my grandparents walk over from their house next door to join us for present opening. The usual post-gift-opening trek to my other grandparents’ house on the East side to see my extended family. Returning home to get ready for Christmas dinner, playing with my new stuff, and wondering what prize my Christmas cracker would contain this year.
A lot of that is now gone: the house, some of the people have passed away, and my immediate family dynamic has undergone a lot of upheaval. I didn’t realize then how much all of that would mean to me later in life. What I wouldn’t give for the chance to relive some of those times, and I feel a big sense of loss in the inability to not go back.
Given all of that, you can imagine how I must feel about flying across the continent for Christmas this year. I get upset about the fact that I am a few km away from what I considered “home” for the majority of my life thus far, let alone being on the other side of North America. What few things that have stayed the same over the years won’t even be there this year. This has been giving me a bit of anxiety. What are the holidays without snow, cold, my immediate family, family parties, my church, and my friends? I will have my husband, for which I can't be thankful enough, but everything else will be different.
I have been away from home for Christmas twice before. Once was not too shocking, as it involved going to Montreal with my mother & brother, and staying at my brother’s house. Still cold, snowy, and family around, though I was sad to have had to leave my then-boyfriend behind. The first time I was away from home at Christmas was when I was 10. My family was in the middle of our trip around the world. We spent Christmas in Melbourne, Australia. Our tree consisted of a decorated plant in the hotel room, and my stocking was a knee-high purple sock. What I remember the most about that Christmas, though, was going to a park to see a fireworks display. It was amazing. To this day, I have never seen anything as spectacular as that, and I will never forget it. That was something I would never have experienced had I not been away from home.
Recent Christmases, though they have been fine, have come with that sense of missing something, whether it be people, traditions, or just the anticipation. They have ended up feeling like a let-down. Maybe this year will be the year that I am able to get some of the special feeling back again. I won’t be at home, wishing for the good old days. I will be in a new place, with new experiences, and no precedents or expectations to live up to, spending it with a loving husband and a ribbon-eating cat. It’s hard for me to let go of the past, but this just might be the jolt I need to get out of my old way of thinking. This can be the best Christmas yet, if I just allow it to unfold.