Mental Health and Christmas Memories
The Fourth House
By – Sheri de Grom
Could it have been my own doing that I gave Christmas away in 1987? Have I continued sprinkling trails of Christmases past until they have become faded but cherished memories?
Looking back in time by way of my journals, I read expressions about the Christmas holiday season as magical, exciting, delicious, musical, elegant, traditional and so on.
The years Tom and I dated and before bipolar disorder entered into every component of our lives, our holidays were indeed enchanting.
A favorite custom of mine was hanging handmade Christmas stockings on the mantel. I’d wrap small gifts and place them in the appropriate stocking. I’d inherited this tradition from my own family. As children, we’d hang the stockings on Thanksgiving day’s night and from that day forward until Christmas, we’d spend hours trying to guess what might be inside the treasured stockings. We were allowed to touch them, pat them if we must, but we were forbidden to look inside, in ecstatic anticipation of the holiday.
There was no containing my excitement and enthusiasm. I loved every event of the holidays: the gift wrap and decorations, the baking, the music, holiday cheer, and discovering the nostalgia in ornaments packed away from Christmases past.
Tom went along with me: trimming the tree, putting up lights, decorating the house and sharing seasonal activities. Church pageants, incorporating delicious aromas from the kitchen, and holiday music were all a must for a proper holiday (according to me).
I’d asked Tom if there was a tradition from his own family he’d like to add to our celebrations and he’d replied, ‘nothing worth mentioning.’
But he added some new traditions of his own. I tagged along as he located captivating nighttime places to photograph multiple exposures for national competitions. I watched in awe as he climbed to perilous heights of jagged rock formations beyond the coastal edge of Monterey Bay during low tide. I shivered as high tide rushed at Tom and the tip of the rocks he stood on. He demanded just the right angle of Pacific waves crashing against the raw winter beach.
We also made many trips to San Francisco and beyond for Tom to capture a series of night shots of churches and another of street people.
I watched and held my breath while he developed the photos as they came to life with the stories he told without words.
Together we worked in soup kitchens for the homeless and packed boxes of clothing and food for families in need. We made new friends along the way and we were tireless. No matter how many hours we worked on a given day, there were always more hours for us to give each other.
Without a doubt, we had fallen in love and there was no separating us.
During the years we dated and then married, before bipolar disorder entered into our lives, on December 7, 1987, if anyone had asked me I would have declared I couldn’t ask for anything more. My reason: I was loved unconditionally and knew how to love unconditionally in return.
I’ve spent many holiday seasons clinging to those perfect memories like a life-preserver in a stormy sea.
With twenty years of therapy behind me, I now know that Tom is not responsible for making my Christmas holiday season filled with fantasy. I’m on first in seeking my own happiness at the holidays. Another valuable lesson learned in seeking the truth of who I am led me to understand perfection is not involved at all. It’s okay if I find new and unique ways of celebrating the holiday season.
Christmases past still haunt me from time to time. But, for this Christmas I’m thankful Tom is home with me unlike so many past holidays when he’s been in the hospital. Today and every day leading up to and through the New Year and beyond, I will hopefully be able to add fresh flowers to the vases in the bedroom, continue lighting the candles for that warm glow, and when Tom’s awake we’ll listen to music we both love. It doesn’t have to be holiday music. Every song we’ve shared in the past comes with its own celebration of our life together.
I’ll read with Tom; he enjoys many of your blogs and they provide hours of material to discuss that otherwise we might never have stumbled upon. Tom sleeps many hours each day and I pray that’s God’s plan in repairing his body.
I’ve been asked how we’ll celebrate this year. My best friend and her husband gave us an ‘Out of Africa’ picnic basket for our wedding gift. We’ve built wonderful memories traveling here and there with the basket but this Christmas Day will find the glorious basket in the center of our king-size bed. I’ve been planning the treats for Christmas day along with readings, music, and all that makes for a romantic day with the man I love. In closing, I’d like to quote a portion of one of the most inspiring Christmas letters I’ve had the privilege to receive. I met Debbie through WordPress and we’ve become lasting and faithful friends. Many of you may know Debbie from her blog, girlwiththepen1118.wordpress.com.
Debbie wrote, “I believe we’re all seeking and trying and achieving to reach the righteous desires of our hearts, and that we’ll continue to. This Season take the time to light a candle for every man to see the world of promise and hope where the Holy One awaits their welcome, the path of purpose and, the awakening to their true identity. Be that shepherd or shepherdess that celebrates Christ’s birth, life and resurrection every day whether it’s a December or July.”
Merry Christmas Everyone
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