I have just come off both a Super Book Blast as well as several days of participating in The Romance Studio’s Christmas blog party. I have done a lot of talking about my new book, The Christmas Dare. In this book, the hero has suffered the sudden loss of loved ones, and the heroine helps pull him through the darkest days that followed. She was also crucial in helping keep memories alive for his younger brother, who was too young to remember very much himself.
Memories of happier days can sustain us when we face difficult times. When circumstances separate us from those we love, whether temporarily or permanently, those remembrances can make us smile, even through the sadness.
This year marked the first Christmas I have not spent following the same traditions I’ve known my entire life. Even though my parents live apart, they have remained true friends. And they always come together for holiday celebrations throughout the year, so the entire extended family can be in one place. It is a privilege I know, and I have always been grateful for it. I know many others who have to alternate holidays, or just live too far away to always get home. But this year, my father’s health was not good, and he was just too weak to leave the home. So for the first time in nearly fifty years, I had to go to his house to visit him, then went to my mom’s house to be with her (where we were joined by the other siblings, in-laws and neices/nephews).
Then on Christmas day, the weather turned wicked and a tornado cut through our town. As sirens wailed in the distance, we watched the news and as they showed footage from a camera mounted on the roof of a downtown hotel, we literally watched as the cloud swirled itself into a tornado and touched down in the middle of Mobile. As it cut a path along the ground, you could see the explosions as transformers and substations blew, and the debris cloud was even visible in some shots. It was really scary, and the fact the weatherman said there would be several more bands behind it that would also be capable of spawning tornados caused us to choose to stay in the house rather than travel the roads for the planned evening holiday meal with all the relatives. It was the right decision, and we came through it safely (my 9-year-old even thought it was fun to be homesteading in the bathtub!). But it was the final nail in my Christmas 2012 traditions…not only had Christmas Eve been a departure from the norm, but now Mother Nature had robbed me of the traditional sit-down feast of turkey and dressing and all the trimmings as all the family members complimented each other on the fine cooking, and discussed what everyone had gotten from Santa that morning, and funny stories were exchanged and eventually talk wound up on Alabama football and how the team looked as it prepares to face Notre Dame. It was sad, as I’d thought we’d have one last final one together. I’ve been spoiled all these years, but I liked our routine. It was comfortable and comforting. It was something we could always rely on to be the same. But this year it threw us a curveball. It was different.
But in the light of today, the sun is shining. Very brightly, actually. It’s crisp and cool outside. My daughter is having a blast riding her new electric moped, and my son has been channeling Ralphie from The Christmas Story with his “oh ffuuddgggeee!” comments as he has been determined to make one of his new gifts work (and sadly, I think it is defective so no amount of his engineering skills will make it a success – I’m pretty sure it’s headed for the customer service desk and a gift exchange!). And I know that I’m so blessed to have had almost half a century of perfect Christmases, with my parents looking on lovingly at their own children as they opened gifts, and now as their grandchildren do. It ended this year, but I’m so appreciative of all the years up until 2012 that were idyllic and picture postcard perfect.
Just as in my new book, Gia, Ethan and Griffin sit and reminisce about happier days when everyone was together, my family wound up doing that too. And it keeps the memory alive. And it’s still special, and in its own way, it is still very real. I’m also quick to remind myself that at least I still have both of my parents, even though our routine has now clearly changed for good.
So to those of you who are missing loved ones this year – whether through death or distance – comfort yourself with the memories of times spent together, and see if it doesn’t put a smile on your face. Sometimes we smile through our tears, but it’s still a smile. And those are always welcomed.