This Christmas season, I had the time and inclination to send cards to close friends and family I’ve known throughout the years. As I looked up addresses, one thing became clear: I need a new address book.
I’ve had the old one for more than a quarter of a century, and during that time, so many of the aunts, uncles, cousins and friends have either died or have moved so many times, I have no idea where to send a card to.
The loss of loved ones can be felt most intensely around the holidays. Many people get the blues around Christmas time, and I, too, have spent many seasons mourning lost traditions.
Growing up with my mother in New York, I would frantically wrap presents until the wee hours of Christmas morning, as we would catch a bus to my aunt’s house in New Jersey Christmas Day to exchange gifts and have supper with family.
As a kid, I played in my Aunt Bet and Uncle Stanley’s basement with their daughters and our other three cousins. They had a big playroom downstairs, and usually, one of the older daughters would produce a game of Twister or Operation, or a hula hoop – something to get us moving a little bit after the big supper and sugary dessert.
My Aunt Bet would send me home with a shopping bag full of hand-me-down clothing that my cousins had grown out of – even more presents. Once home, I would spend the rest of the night trying on shirts, sweaters, jackets, pants and skirts.
When I visited my father in Wisconsin, he often had ordered gifts that he had to assemble – a desk, a bookcase or some such thing – for my stepmother. As he struggled with all the nuts, bolts and Allen wrenches, he released his frustration in a barrage of off-color language, and my stepsisters and I did our best to conceal our giggles.
This year, strangely enough, I did not feel that sense of mourning as I had in other years, even though I did notice the loss of my father, Aunt Bet, Uncle Stanley, my cousin Dave and others still listed in that address book.
Perhaps with all the losses over more than a half century comes a kind of acceptance. You accept that those traditions and loved ones live on as your own cherished memories and embrace the new traditions in a different home with others whom you love.