“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
(Clarence, the Angel, from “It’s a Wonderful Life”)
The tree is up. The cookies are baked and decorated. The presents are wrapped. Plans for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners are set. And my kids are home for what may very well be one of our last Christmases together as the family of four that we’ve been to each other for the past twenty years. This is because they are grown ups, now, not children. If my daughter’s plans work out, she could very well be celebrating Christmas in a country far from home by this time next year. And even if this doesn’t happen, I know that our days are numbered because I made the mistake of raising two young people that other people think are pretty awesome and I’m afraid that at some point, they are both going to fall in love with people who recognize this fact. Then they will have to CHOOSE where to spend each holiday. Because, let’s face it. That’s what happens. And then, when that happens, there will be holes in my holidays where my children used to be. If we’re lucky, and we behave ourselves ( and they fall in love with someone who is from some place not too far away) we will still have them home for some holidays, I know. But then, they’ll bring along those people they fell in love with and so it will be nice, but different, for a few years. And then, if we’re really, REALLY lucky, there will be grandchildren, eventually, to spoil, like we did their parents.
It is all too much, this thinking about the holes that are left when people leave us, move on to other things, other places, other people.
I try to explain this to my kids, the anticipatory grief I feel for a future that none of us can predict, and they look at me and sigh. This is proof that I may be as addled as they think I am since, of course, they understand what it means to experience loss, having had their own life scripts rewritten at birth. Even so, they humor me and tell me it will be okay. They pat me on the shoulder and promise that they’ll still come home to visit their gloomy, neurotic soul of a mother.
And so, I’m trying to remember to live this holiday, this day, each moment, more fully. I’m trying hard to be content with the knowledge that this is just how things are supposed to work if you do it right. First, the empty spaces…and then, the new faces around the tables of our lives.
(For Jean, whose life touched mine in a million different ways both large and small. In love and gratitude, T.)