I cried in the Dunkin Donuts drive thru line this morning.
It started innocent enough. A image of my dad holding his coffee mug while shuffling to his home office and my mom yelling at Cindy and I to run to the car as we will be late AGAIN for school ran through my mind as I waited for my coffee and bagel breakfast. But then I thought about Omi’s Christmas cookies, and how dad would hoard his cookie tin from all of us because he loved to drink his coffee while eating them. And how on Christmas Eve mom would make us take naps so “Santa” would come and when we woke up we would open presents before heading to church that evening. Santa always came on Christmas Eve at our household. Maybe because we had to drive two hours on Christmas Day to see dad’s relatives. Santa was on a timeline you know.
I miss them. My parents. My sister and I were talking over Thanksgiving how memories are growing thin, especially with dad. 18 years now since he died. He would have loved Bryce. Bryce loves trains just like he did. They would have bonded over that. The funny thing though is the year before his death was hard. We were not close as a family. Mom and dad had just moved us from South Jersey to North Jersey and the transition didn’t go well. Mom would spend all day in the bedroom depressed and dad would sit at night alone in the basement playing his old vinyls. And the fights. So intense between them. And then all of a sudden he died. Less than a year after we moved. Just like that. No nice ending, no goodbyes. No I am sorry and I love you please don’t leave me. It was bad and then it was over. And mom fell apart. Her depression, along with her injuries from the car accident left her unable to care for us emotionally. She never recovered. And with it our relationship with her never recovered. When she died in 2015 Cindy and I were only talking to her sporadically. When I got the call from the hospital at 1:00 AM saying she had passed I remember screaming in my head “NO! I never was able to fix us! It cannot end like this!” But it did. It ended messy, with no kodak moment goodbye like I had envisioned for us.
But oh do I miss them. Because before it was bad it was oh so good. My sister and I had a great childhood. Mom and dad loved us and provided for us. We lived in our little bubble in South Jersey where we had a pool and a dog and during the summers we would swim all day and play too many video games. And along with our other relatives, holidays, birthdays and vacations were amazing. We had fun as a family. So that is what I choose to remember. The good.
As Bryce gets older I am starting to incorporate family traditions from my childhood. This year we are doing one of those chocolate advent calendars with him. Last night while opening the little door and extracting the chocolate prize I clearly remember doing that with my sister and mom. I love that I am passing it down. Because in the end those family traditions are what you will remember when you start crying in the Dunkin Donuts drive thru at 7:30 AM on a Thursday.
Life is messy. We all will have regrets when it comes to our family and life choices. But you can’t let it consume you. I encourage all of you out there who are challenged by the holidays to just embrace the good. Hold on to those good memories. And create new ones where you can.