December 12, 2007
The other morning at work I had a conversation with a woman whom I barely know. She replaced my friend in a position which occasionally crosses my path in my official duties in our building. When my friend left the job, she didn’t leave my life; in fact we’re still in touch often. Yet, when I see the "new woman", I sense the loss which is associated with missing my colleague.
This new woman was making coffee in the cafeteria when I stepped up behind her to wait for my turn to get my own cup of brew. She turned around and said hello, and I realized that I was whistling along with the Christmas carols playing on the overhead speakers.
“Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?” she asked me with a smile. I must have turned red myself, but she saved me the embarrassment by quickly adding “I love Christmas too.” We talked for a few moments and she told me that her husband becomes miserable after Thanksgiving because his mother passed away around Christmas time a few years back. I listened to her and added that I can understand where he’s coming from because I lost some relatives around the winter holidays as well.
“But, life does go on, right?” I said, trying not to sound too cliché.
“That’s right; my mother in law wouldn’t want her son to be miserable, especially for our children’s sake.”
That was poignant, what she said. I kind of stared for a moment and thought about Kismet. We paid for our coffees, and I was careful not to offer to pay for hers as I'm inclined to do for co-workers of mine because she was the new kid filling in my friend’s position and she was still kind of on “probation” in my book. Maybe I’d have to phone up my pal and ask if it was alright to fraternize with the new gal, I thought.
However, it is moments like the one I just had with my new work associate, our brief chat about having a happy holiday, that highlighted another conversation I had with my twelve year old daughter only a few nights earlier. My mother died in August of 2006, and while we weathered the holiday season last year with great difficulty, I began to have doubts if I could keep my smile affixed to my face again this time around. My son has been crying a lot because he misses his grandma, and my daughter has been feeling a bit down herself.
The night when I spoke with my little girl we were opening Christmas cards we received in the mail. We talked about her grandmother and how my daughter doesn’t think its fair that she’s not with us anymore. There’s not much to say to a kid who’s crying about a lost loved one. I stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head.
“Hey, why don’t we bake some of Grandma’s famous pumpkin bread together this weekend?” I asked her. She lifted her head and looked at me. “But you made some for Thanksgiving, Daddy.”
“I know, but there’s no reason why we can’t have more. Grand pa would probably want some.”
“But, won’t that make him sad?” I paused, and thought about what she said. “Yeah, I think it might. Grandpa misses Grandma so much. But, he would be so proud of you if you baked him a loaf of her pumpkin bread. He would really love that.”
So, it was agreed. We have a date to bake pumpkin bread together for Christmas Eve. All of this came about while opening Christmas cards and thinking of Grandma. It didn’t occur to me that any of this had to do with the idea of being happy during the holidays until I talked for the first time to the woman who replaced my friend in her position where I work. And, I couldn’t make my daughter feel happy either until I explained that the best way to cheer up Grandpa was to give him something he loved and missed; and that was Grandma’s baking.
It would be difficult, but I would do my best to make this a memorable Christmas holiday for my wife and kids as it is only right to do so. My mother wouldn’t want me to be depressed because she wasn’t here anymore, and she would want her grandchildren to have fun time when Santa Claus came to town.
“This is going to be the best Christmas ever” I told my daughter. She listened with the biggest smile on her face as she took an envelope from the stack of mail. I watched her read another Christmas card; and, it was from my friend I knew from work. I hope she likes pumpkin bread.
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