Celebrations are powerful, especially for children.  They don’t understand I’m not really up for Christmas this year or let’s just let this birthday pass quietly.  They understand the inherent joy in special days, and they’re drawn to reveling in them.  They’re children, after all, even after they’ve morphed into bigger bodies, and if we’re lucky they haven’t lost the magic in marking milestones with joy.

Which has made this past year somewhat difficult for me.

I lost my mom last January, and there has been more than one occasion when I just wanted to sit it out.

Mother’s Day was hard, and frankly I would have been fine with passing it by altogether.  Luckily we’ve never made a big deal about this particular day in our house – none of that breakfast in bed thing or such – so we still managed a pretty low key year.  We threw all of our usual activities out the window and took my dad to lunch.  It was tough, sure, but manageable.

Thanksgiving was tougher seeing as it also would have been mom’s 80th birthday, but we all pulled together for dad’s sake.  My niece shares her birthday with mom so it was important that the family gather, no matter how hard it was going to be.  I thought that day was going to be the roughest, but nothing prepared me for Christmas.

To be brutally honest, I wasn’t even anxious to put up decorations this year.  I mean, we had the excuse that the painters were in the house, but even if they hadn’t been I would have been hard pressed to pull out all the Christmas stops.  Several people reminded me that the kids needed Christmas, so I did what moms do and sucked it up.  But every ornament I hung reminded me of my own mom (who had a special thing about decorating the Christmas tree), and I sighed as I put out her wood angels.

BrightSide helped me take a very “do what I can do” approach to December.  I finished all of our shopping done early so I wouldn’t stress out about delivery dates or wrapping.  I didn’t send out photo Christmas cards for the first time since the kids came home, a decision that was an extraordinarily big deal for me.  (For those of you who usually get those from us, this is why.  I had to strip down December to make it through, but I absolutely loved receiving your cards and seeing how your children have grown over the past year.)  And then there were some things that, well, just didn’t happen.  I did what I could do, but I also took the time I needed.

Christmas still managed to wipe me off my feet, though.  It’s so family centered…everywhere I turned I found myself bumping into memories of mom, and you just can’t suppress that kind of grief for a week straight.  But once I made it through to the other side I actually thought I’d survived the worst of it.

Until I changed the calendar over to January.

As I was writing my birthday on the square I started crying, because last year we celebrated my birthday at the hospice home, singing around mom as she lay in her bed.  All I could think was well, there’s my birthday – and mom died two days later.  And now I wonder, is this it?  Will this forever be what I think of when we circle around to my birthday each year?  I suspect it will, just perhaps not as sharp as this first year.

So given my choice I’d be lying low for my birthday this year, too, but with two kids who love cake to celebrate that’s probably unrealistic.  It’s been almost a year and my heart still aches.  I just don’t know how I’m gonna hold onto that smile.