My husband Jeffrey and I dated briefly in 1995, broke up before Christmas, and got back together for good a couple of years later. I had learned over time that he really, really did not like Christmas, and part of the timing of our breakup had to do with that. Unlike my complete and utter embrace of all things holly, tinsel and gingerbread, Jeffrey would have just as soon spent the weeks between December 15 and January 2 playing video games and eating takeout from the Thai place down the street. No tree, no Santa, and definitely no Christmas carols.
When we reconciled, he felt that he needed a gesture to prove he had changed and was really serious this time. He gave me a beautiful diamond pendant that Christmas. But the real indication that he was committed to our relationship was when he actually went out and bought a tree. He even made some homemade ornaments out of Sculpey. Eventually we found common ground in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t like Vince Guaraldi?
Ours was a mixed marriage, with me continuing to love Christmas and trying to pass that love on to our kids, and him doing his best not to rain on my parade. Eventually he even allowed non-schmaltzy Christmas music to be played in our house, as long as it was after December 1. Still, he couldn’t help but tweak my Santa hat every year. When our daughter, Celeste, was little I brought home some stocking hangers that spell out SANTA. The first night I put them out, he promptly rearranged them to spell out SATAN.
Every year the stocking hangers would come out, and every year he’d switch them around from SANTA to SATAN, and every year I’d do my best imitation of Marge Simpson’s exasperated grumbly noise until he switched it back.
In mid-October this year I was building Lego racecars with our son, Revelin. Rev started singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” out of the blue and my first thought was, I better shush him, Jeffrey will say it’s too soon for Christmas music. Then I remembered Jeffrey died in July and he wasn’t going to be saying much about Christmas carols or anything else. I held my tongue, and Rev sang on.
Thanksgiving vacation rolled around and the kids wanted to decorate for Christmas. Normally I’d say it’s too soon, but there hasn’t been very much that’s been “normal” about this year, so I said okay. I mean, honestly, of all the very reasonable requests my kids have made this year, if putting up Christmas decorations the day before Thanksgiving is the most “out there” one, I think we’re in pretty good shape.
That night, the stocking hangers came out, and Celeste arranged them in proper SANTA order. About half an hour later Rev snuck up and moved them around to spell SATAN. He gave me a sly grin, then put them back in proper SANTA order. I’m tempted to switch them back myself.
Carole McManus is a technology consultant who has blogged for Yahoo! and the Cisco Learning Network. She is currently blogging about the strange and surprising things that grief is teaching her.