I was watching one of those You Tube videos this morning where people suddenly break into song in a mall and before I knew it I was sobbing.
I thought maybe I was losing it with all the Christmas frenzy piling on as the days tick down, until a close friend told me she’d reacted in the same way.
There are lots of tears to be shed at Christmas because despite the joy and happiness, it also represents unfathomable loss.
When I was a girl I had a huge extended family. My mother was the organist at one of our town’s Catholic churches, and our family was also active at the other one. Add in that my dad, a local politician, was determined to meet everyone, and it is safe to say life was full for this family of five kids.
At that time, you were defined by your parish, so our life revolved around the church and the other families who belonged to it. There were huge groups of people who were friendly. All the parents socialized together, so subsequently, all the kids were friends, too.
People got together a lot, especially at Christmas, which was a whirlwind of church services and parties. Even as a child it was exhausting, but wonderfully, and magically, so.
Maybe it’s not so gut-wrenching if you spend your whole life in one town, but I moved away young. My parents died, as have many of their friends. The big extended family shrank to a handful. I live about 25 miles from that town now, after returning to the state after a long time away, but it may as well be a million.
There is something about childhood and Christmas that becomes idealized in memory, although for most of us the everyday reality was far from it. The mind, though, and love for others, helps us to remember the best of times, and feel a keen absence over time. For me it’s especially strong now as I find myself as the adult working to make Christmas special for my kids.
You can’t go back, as much as you wish you could in these moments. And it wouldn’t be the same, even if you did. But looking in from afar, the memories are so sweet, the times so tender, that it feels like perfection. Which I think is worthy of a few tears.