Yesterday was a busy day around Ye Olde Teenage Homestead. And it was a good day – relaxing, entertaining, and both my sons were their usual cut-up selves – the provocateurs, especially when they’re together.
Affectionate barbs and bravado, of course. And so we fiddled through our day of casual cooking and enthusiastic eating, opening gifts and taking pictures – the outtakes are always the best – then one son returned to his portrait painting project, while the other took off to see friends at a considerably larger home that is able to accommodate them.
I was happy to retire to my bed, to classic films, to Motrin for a weary back, and memories drifting in and out. Even good days can be tinged with regret – missing other settings, what we perceive as simpler times, and mostly, missing people we love.
My childhood memories are sprinkled with rowdy road trips to stay with the grandparents during each winter break. There were large, multi-denominational gatherings, noisy family dinners, a string of visits to see aunts and uncles and cousins; overall, I recall a sensation of belonging that felt solid and stable. Somewhere along the way, in young adulthood, that was lost.
I thought I found it again when I married, my own blood relations having dwindled considerably. For more than a decade I was welcomed into a boisterous and caring European family. I loved them. I miss them.
Regrets are normal, living in regret is pointless
Loss is part of life, and the reasons for our sorrows are many. I cherish the good times with my sons – as they are now, but that doesn’t mean the holidays aren’t bittersweet. I miss the family life I once provided, not to mention my recollection of the security and comfort in the life we once led.
My regrets are real and varied – that someone I loved never knew, because I never spoke the words; that my father never had the opportunity to know my sons. There is sadness that I’ve lost touch with long-time friends – a defection born of fatigue more than anything else, and a fact of life in the all too common, all-consuming parenting juggle.
I hope I do not dwell in my regrets, though certain days they flicker in and out of consciousness so I give them their place, then get on with the day.
Still, I was paging through “What do you miss about being married at the holidays” on Huffington Post this morning, and I was skimming comments. While the slide show is published in their Divorce Section, some of the remarks could pertain to anyone who misses a piece of their history, or their own version of “the way we were.”
Divorced versus Widowed
Scanning any divorce-centric site, you can pick out the men and women who wanted to end their marriages from those who didn’t. Yet it was a widow’s remarks that caught my attention. She was seeking solace in missing her husband at the holidays. She hoped to connect with others who understand the nature of grieving: life without a partner, life with unexpected financial woes, midlife alone.
Of course, divorce and widowhood are different animals, but that discussion is for another day. Don’t we have a great deal in common? Dealing with stigma, with money troubles, with solo parenting, with loneliness?
With missing those we loved, especially at the holidays?
Missing those we love
There is a portrait of my grandmother that hangs in a small alcove in my home. It was painted in 1926. She was a beautiful woman and came from a family of means; portraiture was not uncommon in those circumstances.
I can gaze at my grandmother’s face as a young woman, and in my memory I see the portrait as it hung in her living room for decades and then, after her passing, it was displayed over the mantel in my mother’s home. When she died, the portrait came to me.
In the image of my grandmother I see her strength and her femininity, and I recall her intelligence, her creativity, her style. I miss her quiet, I miss her whistling to the birds, I miss sitting with her and drawing; as I grow older, I miss her wisdom as I come to understand it. I miss her example in life, and yet I hold her in my heart and my memories.
Missing marriage, missing family, missing our younger selves
Would it surprise you to hear that there is much I miss about marriage, without needing ever to be married again? Even if my marriage was helped along by a sizable serving of illusion?
And of course I miss my father whom I loved dearly, and my mother – despite our contentious relationship. There are also friends I miss – women who are scattered across this country and with whom I share a history – our portion of dreaming, of mischief-making, and also, supporting each other through hard times.
And then there is my “younger self” with boundless energy and idealism intact. Does that mean I would go back if I could? Certainly not. But I wouldn’t mind an occasional dose of that unbridled optimism, and the saunter in my step to take full advantage of it.
I look at where I am, at what I have, at my sons; I am appreciative and grateful, and somewhat conflicted. My sons are children no longer. They arrive exactly where they need to, as young men. Today, I am wistful for what has passed, even as I remain hopeful for what may come.
Who do you miss, especially at the holidays?
© D A Wolf