If you had asked Granny what her favorite holiday was, she probably would have told you any where she had her family with her.
Truth be told, I think she loved Christmas the best.
Thanksgiving was a highlight of her culinary skills — or rather all of the various methods she had of frying vegetables. But Christmas — Christmas was one she seemed to love the most.
“Christmas is for the children,” was her mantra when I was growing up.
“Did you not have Christmas until I came along?” I asked.
I was maybe 7 and thought the world revolved around my chubby self.
“We did. Your mama and uncle were the kids then,” she said.
“But weren’t they grown ups?” I asked, confused.
“They were, but they were still my babies,” she said.
If anything, Pop was her biggest kid when it came to Christmas.
Beginning with his birthday in October, the months that followed were a nonstop celebration that culminated with Christmas as a grand finale.
Every year, Granny made a big deal about what she was getting him, and took great strides to keep it a secret so he’d be surprised on Christmas morning.
We’d do our Christmas meal on Christmas Eve but saved our presents for Christmas day, spending the rest of the day eating leftovers and watching bowl games with the family that came to visit.
When Pop passed away, just 10 days before Christmas Eve, that was the last year Granny really decorated for the holiday.
Her tree had gotten smaller and smaller over the years he had Alzheimer’s, the spectacular baking was reduced, and the other traditions she — they — had enjoyed dwindled.
She was going through the motions, hoping to connect to some of those feelings of happiness and joy she had earlier. I don’t think she ever did though. She never seemed the same, and Christmas just didn’t feel right.
Then one year, she said she wasn’t putting up a tree. “It’s too much work,” she said.
It wasn’t that.
Trust me, Granny loved to do the most tedious things, complaining non-stop about how she was enduring the most grueling of circumstances to bring joy to us ungrateful heathens.
She lived for things that were too much work simply for that reason.
Her heart just wasn’t in it.
I told her we didn’t need a tree to celebrate and that was fine.
“Are you coming for Christmas?” she’d ask after I moved away.
I told her I would. She always asked if I was coming to see her every time I talked to her, but when she asked about Christmas, there was a different tone in her voice, and it was one that impressed me with how important it was for her.
Sometimes, Granny, Mama and Bobby would come to my house.
It was mostly to just all be together but it wasn’t the same.
She tried to get into the spirit after Cole was born, really she did. But it was hard.
She’s put up a small artificial tree but it was a far cry from those tinsel covered trees she once staged. Where her tree decorating style had once been heralded as “the gaudier the better,” she half-heartedly put the bare minimum on her tree.
I used to decorate, putting out little Santas, a nativity scene, and scattered little trees everywhere.
Granny loved seeing it the years we did Christmas here.
After Granny passed away, it was hard to find that Christmas spirit to decorate.
I said our cabin is too tiny for a tree, I didn’t have time to drag the stuff out, or the pups would freak out over a tree. But, the truth was, I didn’t have it in me.
Not everyone is excited about Christmas.
Some have lost loved ones; some are estranged from their family for many, various reasons and the holidays are a painful reminder of that separation.
Others are really struggling this year.
Grief, we’ve found, can be carried in such different ways and hit us when we least expect it.
We know the holidays won’t be the same but we have absolutely no idea of how heavy it will feel until it slaps us in the face. And how it sometimes is hard to crawl outside of that grief to enjoy being present for those that are still here.
Last year was the first year I’d wanted to decorate since Granny had passed.
I put up some small little trees and some table decorations.
It wasn’t much, and it definitely wasn’t fancy, but it helped me remember the joy.
It reminded me that Christmas is about hope and the magic of miracles, even or perhaps especially when our spirit is broken and weak.
Sudie Crouch is an award-winning humor columnist residing in the North Georgia Mountains among the bears, deer, and possibly Sasquatch. You can connect with her on Facebook at Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Humor, and Deep-Fried Wisdom. Her recently published book, ‘Mama Said: A Collection of Wit, Wisdom, and Deep-Fried Humor’ is available in paperback and Kindle download on Amazon.