December 13, 2006

HoHoHo-ing Through The Holidays

This holiday season is especially hard for me and my family because of the loss of my brother in August. Not only will we notice the large physical absence (as he took up space that equalled to six feet, five inches tall and the width of the jolly green giant), we'll miss his little holiday hijinx. For example, when Boyfriend and I have my family over for a pre-Christmas holiday cheer evening of drinks, dinner, and general milling about, my brother would secretly go over to our Nativity scene, hide the baby Jesus somewhere behind a shepherd, and replace him with a sheep in the crib. He claimed it was not yet Christmas and Jesus shouldn't be featured in the scene until Christmas Day. At my parents' house on Christmas Day he would be donned in a bright green crocheted necktie (a gift I made for him many years ago as a joke) and Frosty The Snowman socks, and would inevitably take a ribbon and bow from one of his gifts and tie it around his head, either as a little bonnet or as an especially fancy sweatband. He was a playful little fella, that's for sure.

Trying to get in the spirit of things has been difficult, to say the least. I miss my brother in his splendor, and I miss the way he drove me nuts. It's also very difficult to stand by in my own grief and watch the other people in my family suffer through their grief too.

In spite of succeeding in decorating the house and trimming the tree, I've felt little holiday spirit so far. It doesn't help that it's December 13th in Minnesota and not only do we not have snow, but temperatures are up into the mid 40s - downright balmy. What the hell?

But today after I got home from work I filled the CD changer with Christmas music and commenced to make some Christmas cookies. First on the list was Madeleines. I've never made them before, and from the looks and taste of what I made, I may never make them again. So much for the nutty-flavored cookies. Then I made my traditional Cream Wafers (which can be found in the Betty Crocker Cookie Book). I fell in love with these cookies when my grandma made them years ago. It's taken me many years to get them just right. A marble cutting board and a marble rolling pin help in keeping the dough chilled, and I finally got it through my thick skull that instead of spreading the filling onto these incredibly short (as in flaky) and delicate cookies with a knife, it's much better to squirt the filling with a pastry bag.

As I was processing, chilling, rolling, cutting, baking, and squirting my little heart out, Neil Diamond was belting out Oh Holy Night and the Hallelujah Chorus, Ertha Kit was teasing with Santa Baby, and Bing Crosby was crooning White Christmas. I do believe I got into the Christmas spirit there for a minute.

Could it be that life actually goes on after someone you love dies? Yes, in one form or another it does. I had a fairly festive evening proven by Christmas tunes echoing in my mind and flour all over the front of my shirt. Tomorrow I might actually sit down and address some Christmas cards, damn it.

Maybe I'm being a big baby about all this death stuff, or maybe this is something that everyone has gone through and just never let me in on the big secret about how hard it is. Whatever the case may be, I am determined to at least fake my way through this holiday sans my little brother.

As I look around and see the stockings hung by the chimney with care, the tinsel twinkling on the glorious Christmas tree, and the candle flames flickering, something isn't quite right.

I think there needs to be a sheep in baby Jesus' crib, and all will be right with the universe.

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