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Lighting the first night of Chanukah.

A reminder pops up on my laptop from Calendar: Christmas Eve.  Obviously, Apple’s Calendar is not able to look around this house.  Yet.  Something to be grateful for in a small way.

Facebook reminds me of all those past Christmas Eve postings—parts of cards, pictures in NYC with Cheshire and Julia, silly pictures of Cheshire’s friends here to support her through rough times, pictures of Julia in full Hogwarts regalia in Florida at the Wizarding World during our Christmas with the Mahoney’s (without our favorite Mahoney’s), trees and stockings and kind Santas who listened to Julia’s sometimes incoherent rambling wish lists.  One post from December 24, 2010, offers the beginning of what has been seven years of strained celebrations:

Julia and I are bedded down in Brooklyn. We are remaking Christmas. In a few years it will be ours again. Peace and love to my facebook comrades. Hug your partners and parents and friends and kids while they are close.

The comments from that post were loving wishes and cyber hugs, acknowledgements of David’s death and our missing him.  I appreciated those comments but now reading them swells my heart and brings a few tears.  Thank you is so insufficient, Lori, Sherri, Jennifer, Jana, Julia, Jen and Scott.  Thank you so any others for your likes and loves that have carried me through.  Although I sometimes complain, Yay! Facebook.

This year, for the first time, I can see that we have re-made our holiday—lighting our menorah every night of Chanukah, making latkes for a few friends, decorating for Christmas early because Julia loves it, playing Christmas music in the car right after Thanksgiving, baking and decorating and sharing cookies, stringing up far more lights than I did last year or the year before, planning a very quiet Christmas day, possibly with movie, and then leaving town the next day.  We, of course it is really just me, have become less rigid about the expectations of the winter holiday.  Next year, it may all be different. It will all be different.  We never really had stock celebrations but it is amazing how I wedded I was to a lighted tree, home to open presents, a special breakfast, an important dinner and lots of cheer.  Like the Grinch, I now see how much “It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.”

This ‘it’, this holiday time is only time and it comes naked, unadorned and unencumbered.  I have been learning that there are no ribbons or tags, loves or loved ones without which the holiday cannot exist. There is only the possibility of an open heart, a heart that needs refilling and renewing during this time, a heart that needs to burrow safely in the darkness and open to the light.  And with each trip around the sun, the needs and wants and growing places are different, even if only subtly so. The white sparkling dinosaurs that we made the year I could not bear to look at our Christmas tree decorations now live in the same box and decorate the tree with my grandmother’s 5 & 10 cent glass balls, the ceramic angel I made when I was 18 and all the silly, touching decorations of my married life.  The new to us Chanukah snow man with a menorah on his head which gives me such a chuckle this year will do the same.

I am grateful for the learning, for the support I’ve been fortunate to have during the learning.  And for a newish tradition of reading my heart to see what it is I need to refill and renew during this time.  I am happy to have arrived here, today.  Christmas Eve.  Julia is happy that it is snowing. I am happy to sit in front of a fire.  We have to shop for tomorrow’s meals— lox and bagels in the morning, roasted shrimp with aioli, beet risotto and Mexican hot cocoa for dinner.  I chose the breakfast, Julia the dinner.

Today, I am packing for our post-Christmas traveling.  The day after Christmas, Julia and I are flying to Tampa.  The next day Cheshire will join us and the day after that we board a ship for a New Year’s Cruise.  Five nights in the Caribbean  with Key West and Cozumel as ports.  Incredibly frivolous to be sure and hopefully carefree.  And warm.  Winter has really only just begun and I am already ready to escape from it.  Julia has been longing for snow; I think I will be more willing to enjoy a good snow in once I’ve laid on a beach.

I have been writing about some very vivid nighttime dreams and working on a rough draft of a long fiction piece.  The dreams are lovely to write down and feel deeply for a few extra minutes.  I miss the regular vivid dreaming of my former, not unexpected, life, that is, before David died.  I wonder if I might get it back again.

I have been day time dreaming about next year’s travel: New Mexico for spring break, Australia in the summer, their winter, and Italy for next Christmas.  I don’t know if any/all of these are feasible and within budgetary constraints but they are definitely with dream time constraints.

I have found my first resolution of the new year: to learn to make a good, spicy chai. There is one coffee shop in town whose chai I like, but I am daily disappointed by the tea bags in my cabinet and most coffee shops.  I am looking for recipes.  Two more resolutions spring to mind: take an Italian class and write for fiction every day.  The second I do most days and the first I do through Duolingo, but I think I need the resolutions to get planted in the right place.

And so, to paraphrase:

Julia and I are bedded down in Madison. We have remade Christmas. Now and again, it is ours.  Peace and love to my facebook comrades. Hug your partners and parents and friends and kids while they are close.

Happy Christmas Eve!  Enjoy the quiet dark and the shining lights.

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After we called back the light to celebrate the solstice at FUS.