My thoughts (Lynnette Pullen-Bradford):
When I found out my “Be Still and Know” assignment was to write about holidays, I didn’t want to. I dragged my feet and procrastinated as long as I could. Then, I wrote some sappy piece about “hope” and “love” and hated it. I deleted it. I simply did not want to write about the holidays.
Initially, I figured it was a little writer’s block or fatigue, but, of course, it couldn’t be that simple. I was almost angry, resentful. Why? Well, if I can be completely honest, I am mad. I’m livid. Hurt. Crushed. Broken. It’s always a little worse around the holidays and no amount of pound cake makes it go away (although it’s not for lack of trying).
When I was a kid, I spent the holidays with my family. I remember my grandfather singing the bass part to the Temptations “Silent Night”. He would blast it from his old school stereo in the basement, and it’d travel through all the vents in the house, almost like a built in surround sound system. Family would travel from all corners of the globe to congregate in one small home, bursting at the seams with love, laughter and food. We’d celebrate as each family arrived. My job was to grab their coats and take them to the extra room.
I always looked forward to my aunt’s homemade cookies and breads. She’d bring dozens and dozens of goodies for us to try. My grandmother’s cornbread dressing took hours, but it was worth every minute. There would always be so much food that everyone would get two plates just to try everything (even then, you might not get to taste it all).
The last time I remember it being an awesome event like that was, ironically, at my house…about twelve years ago. I’d gone from sitting at the kids’ table, at my grandparents’ home, to hosting my first holiday. My grandmother would have been proud. There were thirty or more people there. It was great.
Over the years, things gradually fell apart.
Traveling was getting expensive for some. Money was tight. So, then it was just my immediate family. That was okay, too. But, one holiday, I didn’t get a call to gather at the table. I asked my cousins, sister and mother and everyone sort of gave me vague, “I don’t know,” and “I think we are just going to stay home” responses. It was my first holiday without my family. Needless to say, I was depressed, but nothing prepared me for the pictures.
I can’t say how or when I saw them. I just remember realizing there had, indeed, been a family gathering, and I was officially “not invited.” A stabbing pain reverberated in the center of my chest. I knew it was about my then partner, now wife, but, I never thought they would keep me from participating in the holidays with them.
So, every year, since then, I’ve been slowly putting the pieces back together. I play the Temptations, every now and then, and bake all the recipes I can remember (including the cornbread dressing). We watch movies, laugh, cry and take naps. It helps. Every year is a little easier.
If you, too, are struggling to handle the holidays, for whatever reason that may be, please know that you are most certainly not alone. You are loved and you matter. Be gentle with yourself. Crying is permitted. (In my best bass voice) Merry Christmas, from the Temptations.
Prayer for the day: God, thank You for the gift of Your Son who showed us that ALL are welcome at the table. Send comfort and peace to those of us who are alone or struggle to make it through the holiday seasons. Help us to minister to each other as we cope with pain and loss in our lives. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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