So this is the one that gets me...
Like a knife to the heart...
And I feel terrible about feeling terrible. God, I do.
Those cherub faced, pajama-clad kiddos deserve their moment of joy.
Judge me if you want, but I'll admit it.
Yes, I grieve.
I love Christmas. I love my son. I do.
But December is particularly difficult, reminding me of the life that might have been.
You know the one... where we would all joyously deck the halls while baking cookies and drinking hot cocoa just after seeing the Rockettes and ice-skating at Rockefeller Center, but only after attending church, lest we land on the naughty list. The children would then nestle all snug in their beds ... yeah, you get the picture...
Our Christmas morn plays more like this: Andy and I will wake to the BANG! BANG! BOUNCE! sounds of Jack jumping up and down on his bed. His room is directly above ours, so we hear every bump and thump. (Yes, I like it that way... Andy, not so much.) Then Amy's door, directly across the hall from her brother, will creak open. She'll retrieve Jack from his room and will say sweetly something like "Merry Christmas, Cuddlers!" She'll coax him to try to say "Merry Christmas" in response as they thump down the stairs, hand in hand.
Once they hit the bottom, Amy will run for the tree. Jack will run for the kitchen, scrounging for gummies, or possibly to the family room looking for the stuffed monkey whose long arms he likes to stim with, oblivious to the whole holiday affair.
Camera in hand, the never-ending debate about which way to go will bounce around in my foggy head... Which world do I walk in? Do I ignore Jack's requests and celebrate with Amy under the tree? Or do I let her fend for herself, as I know she can, and make sure Jack gets what he needs.
It's not an exaggeration to admit that I've struggled with holiday-induced depression over the years since Jack's autism diagnosis. But this year, I've finally come to realize I don't necessarily have to choose a world to walk in. I live in our world. It's not necessarily Hallmark commercial-worthy... I do feel like a human ping-pong ball a lot of the time...but it's wonderful in its own head-spinning way.
I knew I had turned the corner the other day, when Andy asked me, "So ... are you in the Christmas spirit yet?" I smiled to myself, thought for a moment, and responded "Why yes. Yes, I am..."
It's strange. I can't attribute it to any sort of Christmas miracle per se. Rather, it's the accumulation of the everyday miracles over these past four years.
Maybe it's because Jack seems so happy and at peace this year. He's finally able to talk just a little. (Fifty-five words at last tally, but who's counting.) He attends an amazing school, where they believe in him and work to meet his individual needs. He receives the best of care from medical professionals who are dedicated to helping him.
And Amy. She's a thoughtful, intelligent, well-rounded kid. She asked for books for Christmas. Books! She's growing up. I couldn't be prouder of the person she is.
I'm thankful that my family is together. We're healthy. There is food in our cupboards. We are warm and safe and dry. From my vantage point, although it's far from typical, all is calm and bright.
I do still feel the knife in my heart on occasion. That's a given that I don't think will ever subside. But I'm thankful for the unique brand of joy and satisfaction I feel, living this life I didn't expect to live.
After all, isn't this holiday about a child born in a stable to a Jewish teenager who claimed to be a virgin? I'm sure Mary wasn't really living the life she expected either.
I love the way Luke put it when he wrote in his Gospel:
But Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.
Me too, Mary. Me too....