Thursday, December 2, 2010

December 2, 2010

Dear Oliver,
I think I have seasonal affective disorder. You see, people around the world sometimes suffer depression when the days get shorter and the weather colder - they need the sun and the warmth that summer provides to keep smiling. Each year I get a little sad, a little melancholy, a little more tired as the calendar continues to flip. But it's not because I miss the energy of the sun. We live in Houston, Texas. I see plenty of sun. For me it's the cold, the dark, the snow that I crave. Waking up day after day to warm breezes and blue skies is exhausting to me. It feels so "go go go" without the natural quieting rhythm of autumn and winter. It's all action, all the time. Me? I want to hunker down and hibernate.

Now that you're here, my S.A.D. is all the more pronounced for every day postcards of winter flit through my head and with them a realization that your childhood will be so very different from mine. I realize that you will never know the anticipation of a blizzard - the kids all atwitter in class the afternoon before, inflating the expected accumulation, taking bets on whether school will close. You will never know the irony of waking up extra early to watch the local news at 5am, fingers crossed so tightly, willing the talking heads to speak your school's name. You will never know the frustration of bundling up in layer upon layer, fingers unable to wiggle, arms comically pointed perpendicular to your body, only to suddenly really really have to pee. You won't spend hours making snow forts, throwing snowballs, jumping into the banks taller than you left by plows. You won't feel the awesome stillness that a fresh coat of snow provides. You won't hear the absolute quiet that even flurries somehow bring upon a city, a world muffled and somehow infinitely smaller.

And it makes me so sad.

However, I hesitate to give the impression that my childhood was picturesque. Sure, cold weather has it's burdens. Burdens I am no doubt lucky to have left behind when I packed up a U Haul trailer and moved south. But I didn't leave behind all of my seasonal childhood trials. Unfortunately some of them were waiting for me when I unpacked.

I know Norman Rockwell didn't paint from life - he painted an imagined hyperbolic world of perfectly carved turkeys and rosy cheeked santas. But I do believe there is a place in this world for some of his scenes of holiday delight. There are few things I want for you more than happy holiday memories. I want you to experience Christmas magic each year. Wonder. Delight. I want you to know that your family loves each other and is grateful for their many blessings. I want you to feel joy.

But I have lived through enough of our family celebrations to know that the joy you will feel (and you will feel it) will be tempered by awkwardness. It will sink as the day progresses and the wine bottles empty. You'll watch family members be callous and unkind to each other. You'll hear words slowly begin to slur and see naps that aren't really naps at all. And you'll no doubt watch me grow ever anxious, ever annoyed and frustrated; my reaction adding to the mounting misery. The magic will fade, the curtain will be pulled back and you'll see that dysfunction hides among the brightly colored boxes stacked beneath the Christmas tree.

I want to protect you, but I don't know how to protect you while also gifting you the memories you'll never accumulate if you don't spend this season with your family. Your daddy and I will make as much excitement in our house as we can - the elf already sits on the shelf, you are staring at brilliant twinkling lights even now, and when you watched the Grinch while smiling in my lap...well *my* heart grew three sizes that day. I will do whatever I can to make these holidays all that you deserve them to be. And for now I am thankful that you won't notice anything but the cookies and stockings this year (and maybe next). But beneath my mounting excitement about witnessing such a exhilarating time through your blue eyes, dread is lurking. The worry of how to protect your innocence from your own loved ones stirs and grumbles and grows. And I don't know how to cage this beast.