I’ve always loved Christmas. Growing up, I spent a lot of time on my Christmas list. I can remember paging through toy catalogues at the breakfast room table documenting what I wanted. I would also put together a list of what I wanted to buy for my family. My grade school often had a Santa’s workshop set up each year and we could buy trinkets for our parents and siblings. Willow Grove mall was also a go to spot for holiday shopping. I was and still am a huge fan of Christmas.
At my parents house each year, the tree is set up in the room at the foot of the front steps, the library. The library has shelves of books of course and some furniture. It’s like an extra living room. At Christmas time, the library and the surrounding rooms become a Christmas wonderland.
Christmas Eve we would go to mass together. After mass, we would have pizza for dinner and make chocolate chip cookies.“Santa and the elves” would set to work after we all went to sleep. My aunt Clare and my mom’s friend Kathy would often stay over night on Christmas Eve and help with setting up. My aunt Clare would stay with me in my room. I can remember anxiously waiting for her to come up after helping my parents. “Oh my God, wait till you see what’s down there,” she would say. I would lie there, unable to sleep, imagining what was down there.
On Christmas morning, we would wake up together and wait at the top of the stairs until my parents were ready. My mom would ring a set of bells and shout, “Good bye, Santa. Thank you! Okay, everyone. Come down!”
The five of us would come down the stairs to a room full of gifts. Each of us had our own pile. The stereo played Christmas music, the train set raced around the foot of the tree. My dad had a video camera in hand and my mom greeted each of us with a Christmas morning hug. We would sit around and open our gifts and exchange gifts that we bought for our parents and for each other. The remainder of the day would be spent playing with our new toys and electronics as my parents prepared Christmas dinner. It was magical.
Even as a teenager, I couldn’t contain that familiar Christmas spirit. Over time, it became less about the gifts and more about the time spent with my family. I relished it. Now that we are all married and have started/are starting our own families, the chain of events has been altered. The past couple years we haven’t all been together for Christmas, but the magic of the Sprandio Christmas still surges on. I attribute this Christmas magic to my parents. They have this unique ability to create a welcoming, happy environment in their home any time of year. But at Christmas, it’s extra special. They are the heart of all of this. Their ability to share their generous hearts with those they love is so natural for them. It’s admired by anyone who encounters it. They have an ability to make you feel like a kid again on Christmas. They inspire fun and wonder. They have instilled this magical excitement in all of us and we have shared it with our new families.
This year on Christmas morning it was me, Zach, Shane, and Nina at my parents house. We spent Christmas Eve setting up for the kids. John, Grace, Leo, Sadie, Joseph, Jane, and Michael all had their own piles. As I helped assemble the gifts, I thought about how I was once a little one in this house trying to sleep while my gifts magically appeared in my pile. Now I’m helping prepare the Christmas magic for my nieces and nephews. I felt privileged to be in the position to create a happy environment for them.
The kids came over later in the day and opened their gifts. It was so sweet watching all of them investigate their new treasures. I recognized the wonder and excitement that had filled that room for over twenty-five years. Seeing their happiness inspired me, but I also felt a tinge of jealousy. I yearned to feel the way they did. I no longer had that innocence and I have struggled to find it and get in the spirit this year. This time last year, Christmas 2016, I was dreaming of what Christmas 2017 would be. It would be my baby’s first Christmas. I would have a little one to share in the fun with cousins. Instead, two miscarriages later, it was me standing in the corner watching my nieces and nephews with a jealous heart. I felt the all too familiar urge to cry, so I left the room and went upstairs to gather myself. I cried for the little one who could have been and for the pregnant belly I could have had at this time, I cried for Zach, I cried for the disappointment in the way I was feeling.
Zach came looking for me. He found me upstairs and asked what was wrong. I tried to explain it to him using too many words when in reality it was simple. I was sad. I was sad on Christmas and I was mad at myself for acting that way. I thought of everyone downstairs, my brothers, the kids, my parents, my aunts. I thought of how they would be disappointed in me if they knew I was upstairs crying. After talking it through with Zach, I rejoined the family downstairs. A few more times throughout the evening I had to step away to contain my emotions.
This holiday season has been a lot about reflection for me. As much as I think I have worked through a lot the last few months, I am still having trouble owning my feelings. I am still thinking of them as a burden. I am still trying to fight them rather than embrace them. Christmas Day was a reminder of this. I was surrounded by happiness, joy, and innocence. I allowed myself to get caught up in what COULD have been rather than focusing on what WAS. That’s not what the season is about. That’s not what I am about.
As this new year approaches, one of my new year’s resolutions that I am determined to keep, is to focus more on the now. I need to get my head out of the rut that it’s in and focus on what I have in front of me, such as my loving husband, my nieces and nephews, who I am so blessed to be able to see whenever I want pretty much. I was chatting with a friend and she said to me she knows it must be hard for me, but she said think about all the special moments you have with your nieces and nephews. You get to spend a lot of time with them right now because you are available and some of them are at ages that they can start to appreciate the fun memories. I didn’t think of it that way. I appreciated her input and will make it part of my thought process now. I get to be available to these sweet little ones. Maybe that’s what I am supposed to do right now. I need to take advantage of this time I have before the plans of having my own family fall into place. I need to rediscover my faith that there is a reason for everything. And when the time is right, I’ll be more ready.
Focusing on the now is easier said than done, but I think it is part of this journey that I am on. I am struggling with this step, but putting in writing will make more accountable for it.
For those of you who have had experience any kind off loss recently, especially a miscarriage or a child, know that I am praying for you. Keep your head up. The holidays are difficult when you’re feeling low, but be sure to stay in the NOW. Each day is a new day to lift yourself up and feel a little better. What happened has happened, continue to be strong and continue on your personal journey.
God bless, happy holidays. I wish much health and happiness in the new year.