Happiness Never Dies
It was beautiful, like everything she made for us on Christmas. My grandma always sent us presents and ornaments with the most amazing decorations. She worked so hard on them. We still had some that were years old, some of the most amazing baubles I’d ever seen, some bursting with color and imagination and others traditional.
My grandma was sort of the matriarch of the family. In a way, she’s the one who pulled us together and taught us everything we knew. She was, after all, the oldest person left on my mom’s side of the family, yet it felt like she could do anything.
One of the most amazing things about her was that no matter how hectic or crazy everything was, she was always calm, and she somehow managed to make us a family on Christmas.
There was lots of gloominess, especially with my mom, and when she was sad, it was hard for my siblings and I not to feel sad, especially when my sister was already stressed with the baby. My mom tried her best to be happy, and no matter what, we were determined to have a good Christmas, regardless of how hard that seemed right now.
Every year, my sisters and brothers in-law came over, and we all decorated the house with our old Christmas records on. We danced, sang, baked cookies, and were there for each other.
My mom and I went out on December 12th as a tradition every year to get our tree; we celebrated the 12 days of Christmas, which we count down, but this year we were a little late.
After the fun of setting up our tree, my brother and his family would come over from Taos and spend the night. My nephews are basically my age, so every Christmas, ever since I was little, we stayed up late and waited for Santa Claus.
This year, however, was different than others. My sisters were late, but I figured that didn’t mean much. My mom was still sad, and she had good reason, but it was Christmas, and I was waiting to have lots of fun with all the traditions we were so used to. I waited and waited, and finally one of my sisters came. She was a little busy, but my other sister was with the baby and wouldn’t be coming until Christmas Day. We went over all of our ornaments and decorations from our Christmas collection; they were so personal and special, we would never have anything like them again. Decorating was not as fun as I had hoped, but now it was time for cookies. I went over to my sister so we could bake cookies together, but she was talking to my mom. I went to my room to wait.
After a while, I heard the clamor of the front door opening and closing. I went out and saw my sister leaving.
“Where are you going? We’re supposed to make cookies and wrap presents,” I said, worried and a little angry.
“Aww, I’m sorry. I think Santa will have to get something other than cookies tonight. I have to go home, but I’m coming back in the morning to finish wrapping the presents.”
I frowned slightly, then sighed, realizing there was nothing I could do.
“OK, see you tomorrow. I love you. Merry Christmas.”
She kissed me on the head and closed the door behind her, a cold draft of air blowing in at me as I stood alone in the entry hall. I looked back at the living room; the lights were all up and the presents were out, but I felt like something was missing.
“When’s everyone else coming?” I asked, realizing the night wasn’t over yet.
“I’m sorry, honey, I forgot to tell you. They decided they were staying home this Christmas, but they’re going to come down later and make up for it.”
“Oh.” I nodded as she kissed me on the head and said, “Merry Christmas,” a hot lump forming in my throat.
I know I was supposed to be too old for Santa Claus, but I still felt like everything was wrong, so I figured I’d write him a letter anyway. I wrote carefully, holding back tears of disappointment, the sound of quiet Christmas carols still playing in the background.
I called my dad to say Merry Christmas, then turned out the light and got in bed with one last sigh.
My eyes opened quickly, my internal clock whistling the arrival of Christmas. I hopped out of bed and ran down to the living room, where my sisters, in-laws, and mom were already chatting and drinking coffee. I got the assorted candies and trinkets from my stocking and spread them out across the floor, the yelps and giggles of the baby mixing with the music, chatter, and dogs.
After a while I realized that, even though everybody was cheery, even my mom, apathy slightly laced the air. I tried talking to all my family; they were all very kind and seemingly fine, but that giddy Christmas feeling seemed to be gone. A strange feeling of anger and discontent began to grow inside me as I opened presents and watched the dogs slide across the red brick floors until, finally, I quietly went to my room and looked through some of my presents.
After a while, my sisters came in and sat down near me, both smiling but obviously concerned that I wasn’t joining them. “What’s the matter?” my oldest sister asked. “Well, last night I didn’t do almost any of the things I usually do on Christmas. Even though grandma died, everybody seems happy, but I feel different, like something’s missing.”
“I’m sorry. It’s been a little different this year because of grandma, but even so, everybody’s here together and celebrating. Maybe it’s some sort of problem of yours. Just come back for a little while, OK? Christmas has only started.” They both kissed me sweetly on the head and then went back out to join the group.
I thought about this for a while before finally going back out to join the others.
“Here you go,” my mom said, handing me a green package beautifully adorned with the words “Merry Xmas, Grandma” written in silver. I smiled, tears welling in my eyes. As I looked on at the room full of cheer and love, I realized something that grandma had always taught us— hold dear on the holidays and in life; happiness never dies.