Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Santa, Could You Fit That Living Room Set in My Stocking?

So, David and I feel that it's our responsibility as parents to try to raise our girls with faith and some solid core values.  We thought we were doing a decent enough job for this stage in the child-rearing game:  taking SK to mass, saying Grace before meals and prayers before bed, discussing some basics of God and Jesus, etc. here and there.  We thought, okay, we're on the right track.  We're raising these girls the way we should.

But if our little foray into holiday preparations is telling me anything, we're failing miserably. 

Two little scenarios have occurred recently to make me think that we need to up the ante on the whole reason-for-the-Christmas-season conversations with our dear Saoirse.  The first clue was when, last week, Saoirse and I were eating lunch while paging through a new holiday catalog that had arrived that day.  At one point, Saoirse gestured at the catalog and asked me if "Santa Claus lives in there."  Whoo, boy, I thought.  Thaaat's not good.  Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  And he lives in Pottery Barn Kids.

Strike two occurred a few days later.  We asked Saoirse if she could name baby Jesus' mother.   Now, we've been over this a billion times, so I smiled proudly in anticipation, waiting for Saoirse's answer.  Do you know what she said?  "Gram."  Gram?!  Are you kidding me?  I mean, my mom is definitely a good person and all, but "Gram??"  Maybe she was taking this whole Jesus-is-our-brother thing a little too literally.  I dunno.

So that's going to be our mission this month: to try to redirect the focus from the getting (oh, but it's so much fun to shop!) to the reflecting.  As excited as I am for that magical moment Christmas morning when Saoirse first sees that Santa Claus has, indeed, come all the way from Pottery Barn to visit our house, and as manic as I've been the last few days shopping online for toys and books and all the fun goodies parents get to give their young children, Saoirse's been a good reminder that I need to rein in the buybuybuy impulse and focus on the peace/charity/love aspect of the holiday.  So I'll try to stay away from toysrus.com (and Land of Nod and Pottery Barn and Amazon...oh, this is gonna be hard).  And we made sure to finally get an advent calendar, which is currently winging its way to our house.  Hopefully this will help redirect our focus.  I'm putting the nativity scene front and center in the living room this year, and hopefully, by Christmas Eve, Saoirse will have remembered that, in fact, Mary is the mother of God.  I'll just have to make sure to keep all pictures of Gram on the other side of the room for awhile.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

How Pumpkin Pie Makes Me Miss My Dad

Today was the third Thanksgiving we've had without my father.  Pancreatic cancer took him from us about two and a half years ago, and even though we've celebrated--celebrated?--a significant number of holidays without him now, they each pass the same exact way.  We go through the motions of greeting relatives we haven't seen in a few months, commenting on how much the kids have grown, trying to grab something to eat while keeping account of one child and feeding another, laughing and drinking and thankful that our daughters have so many cousins who love them.  But the whole time, it feels like I'm choking down a lump in my throat.  Like when I was a kid and about to barf, and I felt like I could keep it down if I just sort of closed my throat.  I ignore the feeling, and it sort of passes, sort of, until I can shove it so far away it's simply hovering over my shoulder like a ghost.  But inevitably, later that evening, on the ride home in the dark car, or in a silent bedroom as I try to sleep, that ghost turns around to face me.  I can't choke back the lump anymore, and I'm hit with the grief that's been following me around all day.

What's funny is that at these family get-togethers, I barely even spoke to my father that much.  He'd sit down in front of a game, or I'd be so busy talking with other people I didn't see as often that we didn't interact that much.  But he was there.  He'd gesture with his plate, advise me to try a particular kind of dessert.  At the end of the day, he'd be beside my mom, ready to go home together.  He was the Ferguson who'd given us all our last name.  It was a family gathering, and he was my family.

But now he's gone.  I realized something strange after my dad died.  When you lose somebody you love this much, you expect to miss that person.  That's obvious.  But what I didn't anticipate was how much I was going to miss how life used to be, if that makes sense.  I wasn't prepared for routines to change.  Traditions to alter.  I don't know why I wasn't prepared for it, but I'm still not quite over the shock of it.  Dad is supposed to be there, beside my mom, eating Thanksgiving family with her mother and siblings.  Dad is supposed to shake David's hand before we leave, give me a big bear hug.  He's supposed to stand next to my brother, shoulder-to-shoulder as we say our greetings or farewells.  And I wonder, confused:  why isn't he here to see how big Saoirse has grown?  He last saw her when she was just two months old.  I want to see that gleam in his eyes when people say how much Quinn looks like him.  On these days, at these functions, I feel like I'm moving around him, around the hole where he should be.  It's like, he's not there, of course, because he's dead.  But his absence is very much present.  And there's no way to avoid stepping into a hole that big.