As the holiday season approaches, so do many of the traditions we have established over the past twenty years. I find myself reluctant to enter in to these sacred moments, and yet knowing how important they are to the kids has me remembering to give them their due diligence. While hiding from those events may be easier for me, it would cause my precious children pain to do so.
Last Friday night we went to the Mission Christmas Parade, a long-standing tradition in our household. After many years of standing in the freezing rain, shivering, trying to hold umbrellas over the kid’s heads, the parade became for me less of an anticipated event and more of a chore. As soon as that wind and rain started up, staying comfortable suddenly seemed the better option and there were years when I would hang back and let Myron brave the elements and the hordes of children straining to see what they could from underneath their hoods. He, however, wouldn’t have dreamed of missing the parade. “It’s tradition!” he’d say disapprovingly as I’d scramble to find reasons to stay warm and dry.
And so we’d walk the kids to the parade. The start of the route is just down at the bottom of the steep hill we live on and the children would be all excited to get there and stake out their piece of cold concrete. We’d schlep down the hill laden with blankets and thermoses of hot chocolate and every few years the night would turn out dry and crisp, a minor miracle here on the west coast.Last year was a bit different. For the first time we were not part of the crowd, but part of the parade. Lauren was asked to sing atop the Fast Pitch float. Myron ran the sound system and the other kids sat with him or handed out candy. I was the designated driver, waiting at the other end of the route after finding a precious and very scarce parking spot for the family van. I remember suddenly realizing that I would have an entire hour to myself and sitting contentedly in the car with a book until it was time to find a spot in the crowd. Who could of known it would be the last photograph I’d ever have of Myron and our children together. They finished the route and posed for a picture on the float. Myron was beaming. Lauren had sung her heart out, had stunned me with her poise and beautiful singing and the pride was written all over his face.
Myron and Lauren have always shared that trait, that inner urging to get up in front of as many people as possible and start entertaining. From the time she was a baby, Myron would get her performing: In the grocery store line-up, at church, at the park. It was like he could wind her up and off she’d go into one of their routines while I’d smack him in the arm and say, “Why can’t you just stand in line like everyone else!” One year when she was three, she had asked to be a chicken for Halloween. I sewed her a chicken costume and later that evening went to the church where Myron was performing some of his songs with a band. He was particularly pleased with the attentiveness of the crowd but was a little confused when they started laughing; confused until he turned around and saw that Lauren had climbed up on stage and was doing a “chicken dance” right behind him. I think I have a picture of that too.
As she was asked to perform in the parade again this year, I found myself again facing that too familiar predicament…facing a family tradition without him.
I sat by myself at the end of the route, waiting for her to come down the road. All the kids were on it, just like last year. Lauren’s best friend took care of the sound system. As I watched float after float pass by, I realized how difficult it was to not speak my thoughts out-loud, to not point out to the kids or to Myron the different things I saw. I felt a tad foolish, saying to no-one in particular, “Look at that one!” or “Wow, those belly dancers must be freezing!” Finally Lauren’s float came down the road and just like last year she did great, got the crowd singing along, waving like Miss America and belting out the Christmas tunes.
Karson got off and joined me at that point, to watch the rest of the parade that followed, and I cannot adequately express the simple joy and comfort I had in his company. Suddenly there was someone to talk to, to point out the donkeys and the men following the horses with wheelbarrows and shovels. To wave at the Muppets characters and laugh at the dogs dressed up like reindeer. And I thought of how grateful I was to be able to hold someone, to have them snuggle on my lap, to see things through their eyes. I don’t know what I would have done if that had been taken away as well. And so I sat with my boy, snuggled in our blankets, on our staked out piece of cold concrete, simultaneously crying at the difference a year can make and giving thanks for the laughter and delight of a six year old child I can call my own.
As I held my son and thought of that last picture it occurred to me that my children will always be known as Myron’s children. His brother can always be introduced as “Myron’s brother” or his parents as “Myron’s mom and dad”. But somehow I’m different. I cannot say, “I’m Myron’s wife.” Instead, it would be, “I was his wife.” I know that is true because every form I fill out has that inevitable box I must check: married, single, divorced, widowed. Maybe that is why they came up with the terms widow and widower. To replace the irrevocable past tense that permeates everything I do. I can say, “I’m his widow,” but no longer legally say, “I’m his wife.” A small technicality to some. A source of awkward sadness for me. I still, however, check ``Mrs.`` when I can, for no matter what the law or the form reports, I still think of myself as Myron`s wife. And in some way or another, I believe I always will.
Thinking about the picture, of how his face looked that night, of the kids gathering in close to him and posing, is almost unbearable. We have pictures of Myron scattered around the house, some that have been there for years, others that are new. There are some rare moments when I can glance at them in passing and smile. But more often than not, I find myself catching sight of his face, and the incredible familiarity of it, his eyes, his grin, and it is too much to take in and I have to look away. To have to look away from the man you love is devastating in itself.
The days are counting down to Christmas, to the 28th, to the reality that an entire year has passed and I still miss him as much as I did the first week. There is so much I want for Christmas and not a single thing can be found in a store or on sale.