A Holiday to Remember: If Only for the Lesson in Gratitude

Open Space

By Lori Welch Brown

A Holiday to Remember

If Only for the Lesson in Gratitude

I have to admit, I’ve experienced some pretty crappy holidays.  Ghosts of Christmas’ past still haunt me.  Too many years to count as a single adult vanquished to the kiddie table.  The year Mom was sick, and I yelled at her for not following up with the doctor.  The year after she passed that I fell into a deep depression.  I drank my way through that Christmas, got sick, and swore off Marlboro Lights.  I smoked my last one December 28, 2008.  The year I was coerced into driving 2.5 hours to my dad’s new girlfriend’s house where I would be spending Christmas Eve—alone with just the two of them—and was greeted by them sporting matching, what appeared to be, wedding rings.  Surprise!  They hadn’t actually gotten married, but that’s another story.  To make matters worse, the only wine on hand was Liebfraumilch.

But, this year.  Wow.  It will be one for the record books.  Finally, my dad is in the same state as me, and I will be able to see him (if I’m lucky) for 30 minutes sitting six feet apart wearing masks.  But, hey.  I’m thankful for that. In this mother of a year, I’m chalking that up to a blessing. And, frankly, that’s what we have to do.  Look for, search out, the blessings.  They’re there, but not as easily recognizable as in years past.

Maybe the big, universal master plan is to teach us all to be grateful for the mundane.  To be grateful, not for the big, fancy dinners with the good china, but for Taco Tuesdays.  To be grateful for the home you have, not the Airbnb castle in Scotland where you were planning to spend the holidays escaping to with twenty of your closest.  Maybe the blessings are to be found hidden right under our noses, buried in our everyday lives.

Like most of us, I’m sad that I won’t be able to see many family members and friends, but we will have to be creative in tweaking some long-standing traditions while finding ways to still connect with our loved ones.  Maybe we will rediscover that the greatest gift of all is the joy in connection and not the gifts wrapped in pretty boxes nestled under the tree or passed out during Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.  I’m allowing myself time to mourn the loss of those traditions, but I don’t want my sadness to weigh too heavily on the true meaning of the holiday season and/or my ability to not only find joy, but to spread it.

As I’m writing this column, it’s a week before Thanksgiving.  We will not be dressing a turkey for our usual table of guests, and we are struggling with how to find gratitude and give thanks without them.  How to celebrate in a way that isn’t a reminder of what will be lacking from the day.  After our morning visit with dad (hooray!), we are planning to do a drive about to the grave sites of family members in gratitude for all they brought to our lives.  Later that evening, we will host a few neighbors at a socially-distanced fire pit where we will write some things we are grateful for as well as wishes/hopes/dreams and toss into the embers.

We are finding new ways to make memories.  Who knows—maybe some of our new traditions will stick.  I don’t send holiday cards every year, but I am this year.  I think everyone could use a little snail mail holiday cheer.  Maybe we will enjoy more outdoor revelry this year.  Caroling with face masks?  I’m a horrible singer so maybe this will be my year to join the chorus so there’s a snowballs chance in h#ll my muffled screeches can sound melodious.

2020 has felt like a royal sh#t show up to this point, but maybe, unlike the ghosts of Christmas’ past, this one will be worth remembering.  Not for what it was, but for what it wasn’t and what it taught us.  Maybe it’s a blessing in disguise somehow.  Maybe the universe is showing us a different way to find happiness and joy.  Maybe it’s time we were grateful in the moment for the blessings at hand.

I don’t know, but I sure will be glad when 2020 is in my rearview mirror. In the meantime, I am grateful and look forward to connecting however I can with whomever I can and sharing the blessings of the season.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy [Whatever you celebrate].  May the blessings of the universe fill you with peace and joy this holiday season and find you healthy and well.

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