Christmas Thoughts in August

This morning, we found our old video camera and some tapes. I had been looking for the camera for years, as I got it as a gift from my parents the Christmas before we had my son. It was also what we knew was going to be the last Christmas with my mom.

That Christmas was such a strange mix of happiness and devastation. My now husband and I drove down to Virginia to spend Christmas with my parents. Until that point (we were still dating at the time) I believe we had each spent the holiday with our own families, but this Christmas was different. My family is British, so of course we held it all together and put on the famous British “stiff upper lip” but each of us knew that the next year, it would be very very different.

Christmas was always my favorite holiday. It was just my parents and I in the US but my mom made every effort to make Christmas magical. If we got to go to England for Christmas it was even MORE magical because then I had my cousins to play with and my massive family around me. While my parents didn’t have a lot of money in my younger years, my mom somehow managed to pull together enough money to get whatever was on the top of my list plus more. It wasn’t just gifts though. She just had an air about her that made the holiday absolutely magical.

2005 was the year my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. By the books, she wasn’t supposed to live more than a couple of months. The cancer had started in her lungs, spread to her liver and pancreas, which are some of the worst places for it to go. She would end up living until June of 2006, but at the time, we never looked up what the books said. We just lived and took each day at a time. That year, I was inherently aware that it was likely my last Christmas with her. This broke me inside in ways I’ll never be able to explain, and I hid that grief from everyone, including my husband. He knew I was struggling, but nobody else knew just how bad it was for me at the time. I put on a brave face most of the time, and soldiered on. It wasn’t until I could be 100% alone that I really let it all come pouring out, and then I bottled it right back up. I couldn’t let my parents see how bad it was because they had their own battles to fight and I didn’t want extra worry about me falling into the mix. They were worried enough.

I was very pregnant that Christmas, and the hormones sure didn’t help me tackle the grief process. My parents I believe had gotten me the camera (althought perhaps we got it?) but I remember recording moments in the kitchen, including one of my mom cooking Christmas dinner. I’ve thought about that moment for years. This was back before smartphones and everyone having a camera and video recording device in their pocket. I’ve spent years wondering if that video was there, and most importantly, if I could hear the sound of her voice. I’ve missed that voice…the sing song “Hello Sweetheart!” and joking “Ya cheeky bugger!” in her British accent more than I can ever say. I just wanted to hear her voice.

This morning, my husband found the camera and tapes, far back in his closet, and handed them to me. It felt like Christmas. I was beyond excited. What was interesting is that yesterday, after having a particularly bad day, I looked up in my linen closet and saw the quilt my mom had given me that Christmas in 2005. I remember the card she had written, asking me to remember that particular Christmas as it was likely our last Christmas together. Somewhere, I have the card stashed away and the blanket has been in my linen closet to keep it safe.

I plugged the old camera in and was thrilled to see it still worked. I popped in tape after tape. Sadly, it looks like the footage I was looking for may have been taped over. On the bright side, it was footage of my husband’s family gathered around the table at a family event, and my father in law is there. He passed away a few years after my mom did. I excitedly told my husband we had footage of his dad, as well as another clip of him holding our son for the first time in the hospital. It was incredibly sweet to see, and to see everyone from 13 years ago in all their youth. There is video of me in the labor and delivery room, in labor, recording while my husband is fast asleep. I found video of them laying my newborn son on my chest while I was in recovery. There was video of my husband talking to the baby in silly voices, and making me cry with laughter by doing silly dances. There was footage of his first birthday party, some of his first steps, him telling me he was scared of thunder, and us being first time parents. There are silver linings.

My house was clean back then too. Isn’t it funny that I made note of that? but it was. Lots of toys around, but it was clean.

2 kids, work, pets, life happened, but ok, I did miss the cleanness of the house back in the day.

That being said, I wouldn’t change it. I love our life and our crazy house. Floors can be dusted. I want the memories.

If there’s one thing that’s been reiterated to me today, it’s to get in the pictures. Get the videos and get IN the videos. One day my kids may be looking for me and my voice in the old home videos. One day they will want to see our memories in a visual form. I want to be in them, and leave them my voice, my love on a screen as a reminder, and to be present. Times have changed and videos are so EASY to make now. I know my mom often didn’t like being on film etc, but I wish I had made more of an effort to get her one screen and in videos. I’d be more content now to be able to hear her and see her on screen on those days I miss her.

In a few weeks, I am headed down to see my dad and step mother. I plan on taking videos. I want voices, and memories for not only me, but for my children as well. I realized I don’t have many pictures and videos of my dad. Not as many as I would like, anyway. It’s time to correct that, while I have the chance.

Seize the day.

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