With my mother’s recent passing, Christmas was difficult. My mom had started shopping for all of us back in October, so we each had several gifts to open from her. My dad wrapped all the gifts, including the ones that she had bought for him, so that we could open our presents all together, like it would have been if she was there. He decorated the tree the way she would have decorated it, made her famous cheeseball recipe that she made every year, and re-created Christmas just as it always had been — or would have been, or should have been, if she didn’t just randomly die six weeks and four days earlier.
Maybe I’ll be able to look at back this one day with distance and see some sort of healing and closure that this provided, but it was grueling trying to fight back the tears. Everyone says don’t fight back tears, but tears are fine. I’m fine with tears. It’s only the overflowing sinuses, ensuing congestion, chapped face, swollen eyes, and generalized oxygen deprivation I’m trying to fight back. Crying fucking sucks.
I guess it was good on some level. I’d been feeling closed-off and unemotional for the past few weeks, like a sap had hardened over me. This was basically like cutting a little off the bottom of the Christmas tree. I was thirsty for water.
And with that happy introduction, let me continue with the annual post of showing off all my awesome Christmas gifts. I wasn’t going to do this post. It felt dumb. But Mom was big on tradition. And I got a little sign from her.
See, one of the other things I wasn’t going to do anymore was make a big deal out of Halloween. When she was in the hospital, one of the last days I saw her conscious was on Halloween. She wasn’t doing very well that day and I’d left early, partially because I couldn’t take the hospital awfulness, and because I also wanted to get home in time for the trick-or-treaters. It ended up raining and we didn’t even get that many kids. The next day in the hospital, I told her about my Halloween display and the trick-or-treaters we did get, but she was delirious and didn’t even remember that it was Halloween anyway. There’s other gory, sad details. That’s just how it goes with hospital stories.
Stay with me. I promise this story gets better.
Anyway, all of those memories had created a gigantic guilt-depression-bomb in my mind. The obvious solution was to just never deal with any of it again, right? No more big Halloween. No more sitting out front handing out candy and scaring kids. No more decorating and blogging about plastic spider rings. Everything in life is pointless when everyone dies at the end.
This was one of the Christmas gifts she had bought me:
Light-up skull gloves, which she thought would be fun AND practical for my Halloween traditions. They light up. They have skulls. They keep your hands warm since she was always worried about frostbite. It’s the triple play. I have no choice now but to continue on next October and do all of my Halloween things. It also just feels like a sign. A nudge. An okay.
So on with the rest of the annual Christmas fallout. I did have a nice Christmas, spending it with my wife, her family, and my family. I love exchanging gifts, eating six thousand pounds of cookies, and sitting through A Christmas Story for the eight millionth time.
Here are a few cool things I got:
Ninja Turtle stuff! From various people. I got the Turtle Van Lego set (okay, it’s called the Shellraiser because kids today are too hip to use the word “van.”) 657 pieces of impatience, fury, frustration, and glory.
Got the official Ninja Turtle trash can (though it’s plastic and a crime against nature that it’s not made of tin.)
I love the Mech Wrekker figure because it combines reissues of figures that were originally released in 1988 and 2003 into one bizarre package. It’s the kind of toy I dream about.
Speaking of the kinds of toys I dream about:
A Kraang Fishing Game! Whoever came up with idea is a genius. I actually haven’t opened a single package my Nickelodeon-era Turtles collection, but there’s no way I’m not cracking this open and playing it.
The wife’s parents gave me a massive chocolate Santa. They were really excited about it. It’s almost more of a work of art than it is a piece of candy. And by piece of candy, I mean approximately 200 servings of candy. I’ve got the carving knife ready. I guess this is their way of saying they know their daughter will unconditionally love me, even after I gain three hundred pounds.
I also got the Wii U from the wife’s parents. I haven’t paid much mind to the Wii U since it came out last year, but curiosity got the best of me. It comes prepackaged with two Mario games, plus there are new versions of Mario Kart, Donkey Kong, and Super Smash Bros coming out in the next six months. It’s really just a Wii in HD, but the more you think about it, the more it seems worth it. And it comes with a Game Gear. (Or a tablet controller. Or whatever that thing is.)
The wife got me a Transformers Beast Wars figure. I was a little miffed at first, given my lack of a Transformers collection, and absolutely no context or knowledge of this mid-nineties iteration of Transformers. Buy hey, it is a gigantic centipede figure. I think we can all get down with that.
This was just a stocking stuffer from the wife, but I feel I really need to spread of the Gospel of Takis. Takis are the greatest snackfood there is.
Also check out this shirt I got. Pac-Man crossing Abbey Road. Perfect.
Finally, a reader sent me pirate Shrinky Dinks:
I had no idea Shrinky Dinks still existed. Pirate Shrinky Dinks rule, and they uplifted my spirits a little bit on one of these dark days I’ve been having. So thank you. And thank you to lots and lots of you — I’ve received so many thoughtful comments on the blog and touching emails. It has all helped me. Every kind word has been a life raft. It won’t get me back to land right away, but it helps to keep me afloat just a little longer.