I just CANNOT get into the holidays this year. Halloween is our favorite holiday, much to the chagrin of our neighbors. We normally decorate the hell out of our house, pun intended, and have an adult costume party. Halloween came and went and we only managed to get a spider on the roof, string up a few orange lights, and set the little Halloween tree on the table. Disgraceful!
Thanksgiving is usually fueled by my husband's obsession with the perfect turkey recipe. It helps to sort of get me in the mood since I make all the sides and I am amused at his primitive need to play with meat. My 4.5 year old is old enough now to talk about what he is thankful for and to make a beautiful pipecleaner centerpiece. His excitement and sweet answers to what he is thankful for ("I'm thankful that you grew me, mommy." And "My mommy and daddy, the President, those scientists that make the big robots, the police and firemen that save you, Ironman and Captain America.") melted my heart this year.
As with most families, Thanksgiving weekend is followed by dragging out the Christmas tree and decorating the house. Although we are not religious, we still celebrate Christmas. (I think of the tree as a way to honor my ancestry since Germans brought the tradition to this country!) I bought a few supplies to make ornaments with the kids. I could put their pictures in the little plastic balls and helped them stuff tinsel inside and put stickers on the outside. But I had only a small plastic butterfly to put in Ellie's. Her stocking hangs empty next to her siblings, never to be filled or opened. I know that I will watch the children open their gifts in their Christmas PJs and laugh at their excitement. And I know I will have to excuse myself for a few minutes to hide my tears for what will never be.
This is the third holiday season since Ellie's death and the first year we are traveling to see family. The fear that they will not mention her, or worse, make me feel awful for mentioning her or tearing up, makes my stomach hurt. While the grandparents get to see all their living children and grandchildren, I will be expected to be thankful for what I have (which of course I am) and to not "bring the mood down". So, like almost every other day in the year, I will have to stay quiet because conflict on top of grief is no winter wonderland.