From the age of eight, my late daughter listened to Christmas music 12 months of the year. This caused no small amount of conflict around our house. Fortunately the advent of headphones allowed for resolution and we all moved on – sort of.
The strains of Jingle Bells could still be heard leaking from her open bedroom window on occasion on a warm June night; she was compelled to accompany her brother’s requested birthday dinner of turkey and fixings each July with seasonal song and; for good measure and a laugh, she’d slide a little Mariah Carey Christmas CD into his discman on an August road trip just to get a rise. Oh, she got a rise, all right.
It was, then, in the spirit of that kind of humour that I jumped in to do my part. Long after they’d grown and graduated to pagers and cell phones and university dorms, I’d take a page out her book and torment her brother, always within the guidelines of our negotiated peace. Years earlier we’d convened a family meeting around the dinner table, replete with talking stick, to find a solution to the sibling seasonal song assault. After much heated discussion and dissent we emerged with an agreement. Christmas music allowed within the household airwaves from November 1 to January 1; restricted to headphones the other ten months of the year with the exception of to-be-determined “special” agreed upon dates.
The first year they were both living in residence at university, I set my alarm clock for 5:30 am on the 1st of November, turned on the coffee pot and cued the boombox with the most rousing version of Here Comes Santa Claus I could find. I called his pager at 5:59, cranked the music and let it rip. Joy.
Each year a new delivery system; every time exhilaration. I was beginning to appreciate his sister’s pleasure at getting a rise. This is the happiness that never comes again when a loved one dies. The big loss is obvious to all. The small, personal moments, however, become the endangered species when grief threatens to overtake and drown all that you once were as a family.
Once my daughter had her own home, all bets were off. Her home might be festooned with Christmas into March and you might be confronted with Silent Night anytime. Get used to it, she said. You never know which Christmas will be your last. Indeed. She got that right.
This year, two days before Hallowe’en, I went to work collecting all that I would need. On November 1st, I picked my granddaughter up from preschool, took her home and together we decorated every square inch of the front window with Christmas paraphernalia. We chose the music, waited until we heard her dad’s footsteps on the front stoop and blasted Frosty the Snowman as loud as it would go.
He stepped inside the house, a smirk on his face. I’m grown up now you know, he said. It’s true and as he held me close in a hard hug designed to squeeze the grief from me, I held close a small moment that occurred earlier as I’d finished decorating his winterland windows.
As my granddaughter danced to the Christmas music (tutu intact) and I admired our holiday handiwork, the front door inexplicably opened. I’m not a bit surprised you’d come today, I said. Come in. Get comfortable. In spite of what stands between she and us now, his sister had arrived on cue. She can still get a rise – sort of.
© Kim Reynolds 2012