Saturday, December 07, 2013

Repeat the Sounding Joy

Last night the kids and I got our Christmas tree. Earlier this week, I decorated the fireplace mantle, putting up our stockings. Last year, I remember having to stop, sit down and try not to fall over from the physical shock of not putting up four stockings for the first time. This year, I hung three stockings and stood in front of them, my feet steady.

It is the third Christmas season without Ed. It's the first year I haven't asked friends for help with the tree. Jack was my helper once we got the tree set up, cutting the netting that was wrapped around the tree that made it easier to secure to the top of my car. The tree was tied by Greg, the dad of one our babysitters. She attends Seattle Prep where one our dearest family friends and one of Ed's closest friends, Meza, teaches science. Greg's wife, Sheila, was working at the cash register of Jack's school's tree lot fundraiser. Eric, another dad at the school and president of West Seattle baseball-- a league Jack played on in some capacity for the last five years- worked with Greg to tie our tree to the car. Before we got the tree, we visited the school gym, the same place where an abundance of family and friends gathered to remember Ed after his memorial. While Reese watched Elf, said hi to new kids, Jack ran around playing tag with friends he's known since kindergarten. I talked for a bit with a dear friend, Amanda, about how it's okay that we aren't getting all the decorations up-just the essentials.

Jack and I got the tree up and set in less than ten minutes. I am acutely aware of the ease in which we are getting ready for Christmas. I can't help but feel like me and my family are that tree: we have been wrapped and insulated by friends and family and community. Our Christmas miracle is this: we are emerging from the need for the net of love and support; we are, in so many ways, being set free from our grief. And yet, we are not set free from our connections. It's the best bonus in the whole wide world.

One of my favorite movies is French Kiss with Kevin Kline and Meg Ryan, a charming and insignificant flick good for Saturday afternoon. Ed & I would recite lines from the movie. Our favorite was Luc's (Kline) line, "Happy people make my ass twitch." Ed & I tended to scoff at happiness. I think it was because we didn't trust happiness-- it felt fleeting and insecure. The term invokes a surface emotion that hasn't been fought for. We spent the majority of our marriage (which was also the majority of our early adult life), searching-hunting- for fulfillment through our relationship, connections with others, education, career. We taught ourselves that IT HAD TO BE HARD to be happy and if it wasn't hard, it wasn't real. Those who knew Ed also knew his particular blend of charm and intelligence, which could infuse a only few words with lightness and meaning. Whenever we encountered simple happiness, Ed would say that line to me with a tint of irony and humor, mimicking Luc's french accent. It was his way of reminding us who we were. How lucky was I to share this private joke with him? When he would say it, I was reminded of the richness of our challenges and life goals-- particularly the one that said, let's dig in, babe, and find the more sustainable emotion: joy.

This morning, this December 7th, the day before the 8th, as I look at the tree ready to be decorated, I told Ed I was happy. And I can hear him laughing, telling me that I make his ass twitch. I picture him sitting at a table, leaning back, comfortable in his own skin. He says it in loving jest, knowing I am reaping the emotional rewards of all that we worked for and all that me and the kids have worked for these last few years. The happiness may be fleeting, which is fine. The joy is clearly there. How lucky am I to know both on this crisp, cold, sunny December morning?