When I was a child, Christmas was magical. Christmas night rides with my mom to look at the lights, with a gingerbread cookie in hand purchased at Inferrera’s Market was a yearly staple.
Mall stores were buzzing, associates wished you a Merry Christmas and the sound of the Salvation Army bell could be heard from any shopping plaza. My childhood was so unforgettable. The memories that come with it are cookie preparation, gift wrapping and tree decorating. All these reminiscences wrap me up in a warm snuggly blanket of feelings. Now that I’m the one creating the joy, I feel like I no longer have joy at times but sadness. I’m on the cusp of financial demise, anxiety-stricken planning and missing the loved ones that are no longer with me. On the outside I may look like Mrs. Claus, but on the inside, I am feeling more like the Grinch at times.
I know it sounds a bit dramatic but all the things that go into making a perfect Christmas are hard to achieve. We have three children with robust lists, and we are living through a hard economy. Just buying groceries and fuel alone have increased by about $200 to $300 a week. I know that we are not the only family just making ends meet but growing up in a town where not everyone feels that burden can be hard sometimes. Our children always have what they need, and for the most part what they want but that comes with a price and I’m not just talking about actual dollars, I’m talking about the need for never enough. We start buying for our children a month before Christmas because their lists change and we rely heavily on our bonuses helping us through. Yes, the looks on their faces when they open their gifts are what we live for. That’s the only reason we do it!
Along with the financial increase of the holiday season I personally go through seasonal slumps of sadness. I can easily say it’s because I miss my loved ones that have passed on.
Watching Hallmark movies where dad lights the fire, and grandpop reads to the grandkids tugs at every single heart string I have. Solely because my father and my grandfather are not with me anymore. Yearly people try to reaffirm my sadness with sayings like:
“They are in heaven smiling down.”
“They would be so proud of you.”
“They are living within you and your children.”
As much as those words are comforting, they are also filled with false knowledge. I miss them! I just freaking miss these men. I think the best thing you could do for anyone who has lost a loved one is just listen to them. Sometimes just having a conversation about their sadness reaffirms that they are being seen.
Holiday food preparation gives me agita, but it’s the only thing that brings true joy to my heart during Christmas. Making ravioli with my mom-mom, Uncle Mike, Aunt Sylvia and my children feel like Christmas. Seeing the kids turn the pasta maker to thin the dough and fill the ravioli with such ambition to make the perfect little ravioli are memories I will treasure forever. The cookie baking and decorating are what I now live for as an adult. I don’t make 12 different kinds like my mom-mom used to, but I say I focus on a solid six different kinds. The sugar cutouts are always my favorite because the kids jump right in. We go through about four bottles of sprinkles but the laughing and sheer joy that is involved gives me all the feels in a good way. These are the things that Christmas should be about, spending time with family, making memories.
The things that matter to me around the holidays are the family togetherness. I want my children to remember our night rides to look at lights. I want them to remember the taste of ravioli on Christmas day. I also want them to remember the joy of baking. Most importantly I want them to have the amazing memories I had as a child so when they get to my age, they understand why we work so hard. Words cannot express how thankful I am that my mom worked so hard to give us everything we needed. Thinking back now to her working two full times job to make ends meet while she pushed through long nights just to make cookies with us, or wrap presents, and take us for holiday light rides.
I also want to thank my mom-mom for cooking and baking her butt off so we could choose our favorite cookies instead of one or two choices on Christmas Eve. Though her main job was a caretaker, nothing could ever compare to the holiday table with fine china, her mother’s cutlery, a warm fireplace and being together. She planned for weeks, decorated our presents to the nines, gifted us all Christmas pajamas and even made her own darn bows.
My mom and mom-mom are holiday warriors and because of them I push to get through the financial burdens, and holiday grief for those no longer with us. I do it for my children so they can continue on in years to come.
Loraine Griffiths is a fifth-generation Hammontonian, graphic designer, wife and mother of three. She can be reached through email at LifeWithLoraine@gmail.com.