This Christmas

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I’ve always loved Christmas. My parents did a wonderful job of keeping it magical. We had a bit of an unconventional Christmas every year. My parents saw little use in using Christmas as a religious holiday since Jesus was born in the spring. Instead, Christmas for our family was a family holiday. They weren’t strict about it, we just never focused on that part of Christmas.

Growing up we’d drive twelve hours from Ft. Worth, Texas to St. Louis, Missouri where my Mother’s parents live. We’d get up the next morning and drive four hours to Chicago where my Father’s family lives.

We would spend a few days there with his family and celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve. My Dad has three siblings and our Christmas’s were loud, filled with laughter, and great food. My sister and I would play with our cousins, we’d see Santa, and everyone would buy presents for each other at the last minute. Santa (Papa) would come visit us and my uncle would rile us up as we waited for Santa to leave. We’d all take turns opening presents and while we did receive a lot of gifts, it was never about that. We were there to be with our family.

Christmas morning Santa would fill our stockings. My parents would wake Tessa and I up very early, we’d see what Santa brought us (my Mother still does this) and then we’d get back in the car and drive four hours back to St. Louis.

Grandma Brady would be cooking like a mad woman. She’d have fresh pies made and the Christmas dessert table filled with goodies (she’d keep the table filled and open for days). We’d have a late lunch with my grandparents, uncle, and sometimes with my aunt and her children (“the boys” as we refer to them).

Later that night we’d open presents and have a fun night joking with family. The Brady family is incredibly witty. Some years we’d have a white Christmas and would go sledding in the backyard. We would cram as much family time as we could in a few days and then head home. Where Santa had found my sister and I. The holidays were filled with joy and love. And I’d look forward to it every year. And this year I want nothing to do with it.

I thought I’d be better. I thought I could do it for Brielle, incorporate her still into our loving family celebrations. Instead, I change the radio when Christmas music comes on. I spent the morning sobbing when church had their Christmas concert. And I felt guilty because I kept David from attending. I have no desire to decorate for Christmas. I don’t have the joy I once had for it.

I don’t spend my days curled up in a ball sobbing, I only cry on occasion. I still laugh and smile. I go about life like normal. I don’t look or act differently. But inside all of my joy is gone. For the rest of my life I’ll wonder who she would be at Christmas. Would she like Santa? What would she think of snow? Would she be a brat about presents or would I have taught her how to behave well? What kind of letters would she write to Santa? And what would she request every year for Christmas? What would her interests and hobbies be? I’ll never know.

We’ll have other children, but they won’t replace her. They will never replace that joy. They’ll bring a new joy, but it’s not the same. And anyone who says otherwise has never lost a child. How can I ever enjoy Christmas again without my family? Brielle will never have a Christmas, she’ll never join us. I should have given her a Christmas before she was born. I’ll regret that for the rest of my life. She might have liked Christmas music. I didn’t read her “Madeline” or “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (she probably wouldn’t have liked that one anyways, it was written by Dr. Seuss). I want to know what she thought of those things.

I’ll be happy for the family that I still have. I’ll put up the tree. I’ll bake goodies and keep traditions alive. But my heart won’t ever be the same.

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