Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Broken ornaments

Christmas is hard. Everything around you portrays a perfection that is impossible to achieve. Television, movies, advertising, editorials all conspire to make regular people fall short of the Norman Rockwell vision of how the world should work.

It's taken me a long time to give up that goal. Who am I kidding, I'm still trying for perfection, but with the goal of stopping when its "good enough" and not being critical of myself when I can't force the world to spin backwards on its axis to work the way I thought it should.

I go overboard. I fall short. I take a deep breath and reset my mind.

In my family each family member was given a unique ornament every year. As the tradition progressed we started writing the year on the ornament. My mother's plan was for each of us to take our ornaments with us when we moved out and we'd have a start on our own traditions when we were adults.

I did take this with me. Lyle and I continue this tradition and we include the dogs. It's a very Norman Rockwell tradition in my mind. But there is a caveat to the tradition. Something I did not see going in. After our first two dogs passed away Christmas became an emotional minefield.

The first two Christmases without Sophia and Nora I couldn't put their ornaments out. I would find the box with them in it and just sit down and cry. Thus ended that day of decorating. Three years later (last year) I was finally able to do an entire tree in dog ornaments. This year I placed all the dog ornaments in the garlands in the entryway. As I took each ornament out it was accompanied with a heavy sigh. Twenty-nine HEAVY SIGHS. But I made it. I made it! Getting the ornaments out is the hardest part. Touching each one, reading the year, the quiver of my lip and the mist in my eye... but I made it. I can't say it enough times, I made it through.

Then last night I was going into a different box of ornaments to get a different theme out (shut up, you know I have 8 complete unique themes going on in different zones of the house) and I got caught off guard.

I found ornaments that Nora had eaten one year when we left town for Christmas. Each day, apparently, she would walk up to the tree and select one ornament to chew up. Only one a day. just to show her displeasure. Pissed me off, but made me laugh because it was clearly thought out. She didn't eat them all in one day. One each day that we were gone.

So it caught me off guard and the next thing you know, I am literally on the floor in a ball crying. It's the strange thing about grief. I describe it like a wave (sometimes on the North shore of Hawaii). It comes and it goes. It ebbs and flows. Sometimes it stays away for a long time, but when it washes over you it is just as strong as the first time the wave swept over you. But it does go away.

And I am much better today. No need for concern. If I wasn't better I couldn't write this.

My reason for sharing is to remind you to relax. Breathe. There is no perfection. Emotions are natural and if you squash them down (hello, heavy sigh!) they will make their way out anyway (hello, ball on floor!) because they are necessary. And seriously, I am doing well today. When I look at that picture of the broken ornaments I can remember how great Sophia and Nora were and how lucky we were to have them and all the good things they brought into my life.


Sherri said...


I know of what you speak, save that my animals didn't have ornaments. They had little stockings with their names on them.

I did not take the stockings out this year or last year, since at least two of the pets named are gone.

Worst of all, some 10 years ago my beloved cat, Precious, all of 18 and then some years old, went from loving but crotchety old lady to dead in a single day. She just spent the day doing it, but that was all -- a few hours, really, between the time she refused her favorite foods to curl up under a chair and the time she breathed her last, purring the whole time.

Yeah, I know what you are talking about.


dit said...

Thanks for the reminder and for sharing this. I will keep that in mind with the in-laws visiting (they really are wonderful). For what its worth . . . Bug hug across the boulevard.

jason said...

you two (ok, four) are too cute there.

Rachel said...

Yup. Got to the orange tabby ornaments the other day and Kiko's stocking and just started bawling and bawling. I kept decorating the tree but I was crying the whole time. Go over and hug Pye, and cry some more. I didn't finish the tree, though, and took a break for a couple of days.

martin said...

Eight themes ?. That's more than our Queen here in England. Cool post.

Michael Guy said...

Solid post/great thoughts.

Nice pic of you two! So cute and happy!

Carolyn said...

My daughter, Bronte, still cries every time she sees the urn with the ashes of our beloved Black Lab, Molly, in it. Molly has been gone for 3 years.
I can't help but wonder what the Santa thought when he saw the four of you coming to have your picture taken.