As we continue to share different attitudes women have about the holiday season, we welcome Jessie Rosenblum back to the hive.
In our family growing up, Christmas morning was chaos. My mom could not wait for Santa to deliver gifts for six children so a few days before Christmas, presents began appearing under the tree.
It gave me enough time to count how many gifts were for me that by the time Christmas morning came, I had that odd mixture of excitement, disappointment and jealousy, fueled by restless adrenaline, that only happened this time of year. I raced through opening gift after gift, and by the time I looked up, my eyes were red, and my nose was running.
I was allergic to our pine Christmas tree, and so it was a rapid decline from one emotion to the next, then onto an allergy attack, followed by tears welling up in my eyes when I looked up after opening my last gift. And just when I thought it was over, my older brother pointed to a gift I had not seen with my name on it.
It was wrapped very unusually. One year I heard a meow come from it. And then my old cat Sam jumped out, and my mom scolded my brother for putting the cat in a box. Another year, a big box was full of smaller empty ones, and the last was a little box of cereal. My mom scolded my brother and told him to leave me alone.
As a mom, I am in awe when I think about my mom pulling off Christmas with so many kids. My father died when I was six, she worked full-time, and we had no family in town. Even in the few years following, she continued to create these crazy Christmas morning memories that were my childhood. She always topped it off when the crying and yelling of the morning winded down with her homemade hot chocolate.
When I lost my husband in December 2015 and had to create memories for my kids, my mom shared her secret. “One morning I pulled into work,” she said “and when I got out of your dad’s red Volkswagon Beetle, I saw a dandelion growing out of the concrete; and I said to myself “damn it if a dandelion can do it, so can I.”
In our house now, we celebrate Hanukkah. And when I think about our first Hanukkah without my husband, putting up the decorations was as hard of a job for me as I imagine it was for the dandelion trying to break through the concrete. The lights of the season have since become more important than they ever have in my life. They catch my eye in the darkness the same way the dandelion caught my mom’s, or even the unusually wrapped meowing box with my name on it on Christmas mornings. They give me hope that there is more.
“There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” (a quote on the wall of the coffee shop where I write this)
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