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I know that Christmas is over but the memories linger on. I’ve been seeing previews for the movie, The Holiday, about two women who are unhappy and who decide that they don’t want to be home for Christmas and each go to another country to escape reality. This got me to thinking of my past Christmas’s when I felt the same way.

 I always feel a little blue during the Christmas holidays since I became an adult. There is nothing like the magic of Christmas when you are a child, the difficulty of going to sleep when you are wondering what is under the tree. My sister once had me get up at three in the morning to see if I could see what was in the living room by the tree but I had to do it in the dark so I wouldn’t wake up the parents. I could see two bicycles where the street lights from outside reflected off of the chrome handle bars. I wasn’t as excited as my sister and could probably have slept until morning but she kept me awake.

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 I made a big deal out of Christmas for my children with egg nog and Christmas music playing while we decorated the tree. I had advent calendars, a creche where the baby Jesus wasn’t put in place until Christmas Eve. We went to church, sang in choirs, had Santa Clause show up at the front door. It was fun to share in the excitement of children who still believed in magic. As they got older it became harder and harder to get them out of bed and we occasionally didn’t spend Christmas at home but went on trips. Somewhere along the way, Christmas became a sort of chore, especially as my then marriage was winding its way to the end and I found myself putting all of the Christmas decorations away by myself, becoming resentful.

 After my divorce I didn’t even want to get a tree. A friend told me I had to do something for my daughter, still living at home with me. I bought a tree, got totally new decorations for it and went through the motions of having some holiday spirit. She was going through a rough time herself during this time and Christmas became a cheerless activity that we somehow got through. Holidays can be such a bummer. They seem to make bad times seem worse, and emotions, especially bad ones, feel magnified. I remember putting some left over turkey into the refrigerator and suddenly finding myself sobbing.

 So, for the next Christmas(this was ten years ago), I decided to skip the whole thing. By then my daughter wasn’t living with me. I didn’t buy a tree, I didn’t bring out any decorations. I decided on the spur of the moment to go to Las Vegas. Why, I’m not sure, except it was a place, in my mind, the least Christmassy city in the world. Nothing there but sunshine, casinos, one armed bandits, and unending buffets. For some reason, my niece decided that she wanted to go with me. So off we went. We stayed at a small casino/hotel, The Hard Rock Cafe. I love to gamble. I love slot machines and I love black jack. However, I seldom win any serious money. I am such a conservative, that I always limit myself to a certain amount to bet and once that is gone-and it almost always is-I stop. After two days, I decided that I couldn’t bet any more money. I had used up my quota. My niece had stopped on the first day. We found out that on Christmas day there are no shows to see. It isn’t much fun to wander around various casinos watching other people bet. We went and looked at all of the rather elaborate casinos with pirate fights going on outside in full sized boats, Roman statues and light shows and all of the spectacular things that they have going on in Vegas. What a soul-less place it turned out to be. I learned that it is not a place a depressed person should go to. My niece even had some sort of panic attack. I looked at our plane tickets and discovered that I had my dates wrong and we actually had one more day there than I thought. I spent some extra money to get out of Las Vegas a day earlier.

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 So I learned that you can’t escape Christmas no matter how much you want to and that it follows you around no matter where you go like a little ghost tugging on your sleeve and you can’t shut the door on it. And depression has to be worked through, there are no shortcuts. Each year after the Las Vegas debacle got better and better. I still don’t do much decorating and I still feel that little ghost when I hear some Christmas songs, such as Blue Christmas or Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas-man, that’s a sad one. I count my blessings every day and I always feel that next year will be the best one yet.

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So here it is–time for another new year. May yours be filled with love and joy.