Used to be I loved trying to catch the turn -- and between autumn and winter, that's no small feat. Somewhere between the leaves falling and the sky darkening lay a change in my mindset. I loved scarves, the smell of fires, and fluffy robes. I joyfully brought the evergreen into my home, baked, and wrapped the presents just so. I gleefully sacked out with beer and chips for 12 hours of football. And after presenting myself with a new calendar, I continued to revel in the frost, sledding, ice skating. Watching cardinals and jays snipe in the frost-covered trees. Eating comfort food. Poo-poo'ing my way through Valentine's Day, but certainly using the excuse to make something chocolate for dessert. And after using the excuse of my birthday in the waning hours of winter to try out a new cake recipe, I'd start to look for the next turn: the first crocus, the emergent bud, the lone daffodil.
I hate the turn now. The darkness descends so early, I think of nothing but sleep all day long. The trees look ugly and naked, it seems as if it only rains ice, sideways. Decorating is exhausting, my favorite sweaters no longer fit. Melted cheese is no longer comforting, but a nutritional staple. And after the bowl games are recorded, I know damn well what comes next, what awaits me in the dead center of winter: February. A week of remembering and trying to forget. Followed by a hollowed-out sense of misery, as the salt and last remaining patches of snow turn dirty on the street corners. Winter is cold and brutal and hard, the holidays empty.
All because Maddy died when she did.
Lost in my winter shuffle is another turn, that of a New Year. Lucy's right, you know -- why the Happy? It's a new year, certainly, but "new" is rather neutral, is it not? A "new experience," or "a new normal" doesn't mean it's a happy one, as we all well know. And for that matter, why does a Holiday or a Birthday need to be Happy? Maybe this is just my cynicism regarding New Year's, lost in the morass of the winter blues. My year now rotates on another axis entirely.
Join us for a Winter/Holiday/New Year's 7x7, won't you? Here are the questions:
1 | Welcome to 2009. What have you left behind in the year just past? What do you hope to find in the year to come?
2 | We've just come through the season in which our culture touts cheer and peace and family togetherness rather relentlessly. How did your child's death impact your experience of the "holiday" season, personally or culturally?
3 | If you celebrate in any way through December, are there ways you include or acknowledge your lost baby/babies?
4 | Through the year are there any holidays, seasons, or parts of what were once cherished rituals that have changed for you because of your child's death?
5 | Do you do anything to remember your baby/babies' birth and/or death day? Or will you?
6 | Is there anything about the winter season (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere right now) that lifts your spirits? Is there anything that especially brings them down?
7 | During your hardest times, how have you found your way forward?
Read our answers, and then we'd love to read yours. If you have a blog, share the link to your answers in the comments here, and link back to us here on your blog -- if you don't have a blog, please answer in the comments directly. (Comments turned off at the end of this post; please go to 7x7 page.)
Your answers may not be naively happy, iced in royal frosting, and curled up in cashmere, but perhaps there is relief, or hope, or simply a comforting shared sense of despair in knowing how the holidays and special events in life pass for others.