Saturday, December 22, 2012

Present Balancing and Christmas Without Mom

Something weird is going on here at Dunnevant Christmas Central. Yesterday afternoon, December 21, instead of being incinerated by the world ending meteor foretold by the Mayans, Pam and I were wrapping the kids’ presents. Four full days before Christmas, Pam and I were done shopping. That’s a Dunnevant family record.

For all of you veteran parents out there, have you ever noticed that as your kids get bigger, their presents get smaller? In the old days we would spend half the night cursing at the assembly instructions for some huge plastic thing that one of the kids just had to have. Now, everything they want comes in small, sleek boxes, light as a feather. Wrapping this stuff is a breeze. But then we put it all under the tree and we look at each other and ask, “Wait, is that it?”

Some things never change though. Each year Pam has to lay their stuff out on our king sized bed, Patrick’s stuff to the left and Kaitlin’s to the right. There has to be an even number of presents. If there isn’t, one of us is making a midnight run to Target. Here’s how the conversation usually goes:

Pam: Look at how much more area Patrick’s stuff takes up.

Me: That’s just because his stuff is bulkier. They have the same number of presents.

Pam: Yes, but it looks unfair.

Me: Huh?

Or this classic exchange:

Pam: Kaitlin has two more gifts than Patrick does.

Me: Yes, but we spent the exact same amount of money on them both.

Pam: Yes, but Kaitlin will be opening two more presents than Patrick.

Me: Yes, but it doesn’t matter because we love them the same.

Pam: Doesn’t matter? It most certainly does matter.

Me: Honey, I can show you the receipts. We spent the exact same amount of money on them.

Pam: This isn’t about money, it’s about appearances.

Me: Wait,…what?

Pam: I know, I can put Kaitlin’s earrings inside her Vera Bradley bag. That will eliminate one extra present, and then you can go to Target and buy Patrick a Chipotle gift card.

Me: Yeah, but that will mean that we will have spent more money on Patrick.

Pam: Yes, but it will come out even.

Me: ………….OooooK


Something else feels different about Christmas this year. My mother isn’t here. It’s difficult to imagine what it will be like when we all get together for Christmas dinner without her. All of us will be there, my brother and his family, my two sisters and their families. Dad will be there. But this year it’s going to be at Linda’s house. That will be different too.

There have been several times this Christmas season when I have missed Mom, times when I have felt her loss more acutely. It’s always the strangest things that stir up the most powerful emotions. The other day I was walking into Mom and Dad’s house. Right at the door there is a cabinet to the right. I looked at it and noticed that nothing was sitting on the top. I thought of that terribly tacky mechanized Santa Claus that Mom used to put at the door, the one where if you pushed the button he would start dancing and playing “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”. The fact that it wasn’t there washed a wave of sadness over me.

There have been many odd moments like that this season. But, although I’m sure that Christmas morning at Linda’s will have it’s sad moments, I can’t remember a Christmas where I am more anxious to be with the family than this year. Part of me wants to avoid it all together, but the other part wants to spend all day with them.  Losing Mom and caring for Dad these past five months has brought me closer to them. We have always loved each other, but this year seems different, same love, but much more respect, much more appreciation.

So, this year Mom is in heaven, and we are all left with the next best thing…Christmas.