There are some things about my life that have allowed me to remain blissfully child-like. My sheltered upbringing, the fact that I went from being under my parent’s roof to college and then straight to wedded bliss (while still remaining in school, never having to really and truly support myself). There have been some ways in which it is only now, in my mid-30′s, that life has become more “real” (whatever that means). I told Adam on our last trip to Disneyland (last month, for Anna’s birthday) that this was the first time that the place had lost its magic for me (I am, however, 100% aware that this was because I was caring for an infant–an INFANT, for crying out loud! This is no place for a baby!–and not running around like a kid myself and riding all the rides and laughing and eating candy).
The holidays are different now, too, but really only since that one year, the bad year, the year that I lost another baby and got cancer and my parents got divorced. That last part was kind of a biggie for me. Because even though my life circumstances were changing, even though I was losing my faith in myself and in God and in the rightness of the universe, things didn’t really fall apart for me until my parents separated. Because of all things, doesn’t every kid, or grownup, for that matter (or is this just me????) want to go back home? Back to the safety and comfort of the way things were, the way things are, the way things should (will?) always be? And when that safety net is gone…poof…everything starts to look a little different. I started to understand, to really and truly understand, that there are no guarantees. That health and money and friends and family and home and traditions all have the chance to be nothing more than temporary constructs, sometimes shakily built and easily ruined. Some, but not all. That was the year that I really and truly grew up.
I don’t mean this as a finger-pointing accusation (of my parents), though, not by any means. I love them both. Things happen. We all only do the best that we can do and then we try to grow. What matters is not what’s in the past, what matters is how we deal with what is before us now.
I’ve been talking a bit about my cancer with some new friends that I’ve met since Lily’s birth. I can feel it again, these feelings of the way my life became instantly segmented during that time. I think of it as Before Cancer, After Cancer. Everything changed. And yet…it didn’t. I changed. I became who I was always intended to become. I like the me that I am, I just wish that it didn’t have to have happened the way it did.
Sometimes I miss the life Before Cancer. In hindsight, it seems like a simpler time. I know that this time had its own complications and disappointments but I long for that feeling of being childlike. I miss giggling with my sister all night long the night before Christmas, wondering what presents would be under the tree. I miss listening to my favorite Christmas album (on cassette, of course) on my little purple radio. I miss these things because there is no recapturing of innocence. I can feel a temporary sense of this innocence through my daughter’s eyes–the look on her face when she sees the tree Christmas morning, the belief she has, without any doubt, that things will always be the way they are–she will always make pizzelle on Christmas eve and she will always get tucked into her flowered sheets in her pink room with her stuffed animal under her arm and she will always have her mommy and daddy to take care of her.
Do any of us ever lose that longing to return to that place?
I like being the parent, I do. I like being the one to wrap the presents and the one to organize the building of the gingerbread house and the holiday parties. But I still long for that feeling.
The goodness of this season, for me, for now, is not found in searching back in the past (though I do treasure my memories). It is in resting in what is now, with the concrete understanding that this, too, is fleeting: the good and the bad. We do what we can do to construct the moments we want and then we have to let it go. It’s beautiful and it’s tragic and it’s just the way life is, melancholic and lovely, all at once.