When my daughter, Tenley, helped decorate for Christmas this year, she hung the stockings up on the mantel.
Because we never seem to have a full inventory of stocking hangers, there were only three hangers available in our Christmas supplies box. We needed six (my husband, me, her, my son, my father-in-law (who lives with us) and the cats (who share one stocking)). When she completed hanging stockings, the three she had put up were my husband’s, mine, and my son’s.
When I said, “we need to get yours up there,” she said “it’s okay. I’m not going to be here anyway.” While it is true that she was not home for Christmas (because she is at Disney World with a friend, has been there since 12/23/15 and will be there till 1/3/16), it’s not true that her stocking does not need to be there.
I should give her kudos for putting her brother first. There have been times in the family history where I might have predicted she would put her stocking up and let him fend for himself.
That one visual of the mantel without her stocking has stirred up so many thoughts. Forget those creatures not stirring (not even that mouse); my thoughts and feelings were stirring.
I am thinking of the time Wayne and I went to Lake Butler for a wedding when we had first started dating and refused to stay with my parents, in an attempt on my part to make some kind of statement of independence.
I am thinking of numerous friends who feel distant from their adult children, like everything they say is misunderstood, ridiculed, rebuffed, or minimized.
I am thinking especially of one friend, a fantastic and devoted mother, whose only child has broken off all communication with her. I simply don’t understand.
I am thinking of the pros and cons of how I have handled being a parent, of the times when for various reasons Wayne and I have both walked on eggshells around our daughter, thinking of that extremely unrealistic filter that is Facebook which makes almost every other family look happier, more relaxed, more whole.
I am grateful that, on balance, I have what I consider to be a solid, honest relationship with my daughter, and for the fact that she is a lot nicer to me at 19 than I was to my parents at the same age.
I am acknowledging that I still desperately want to matter, that I can’t help myself insecurity-wise when she is leaving after a visit from saying, “you’re going to come back and give me a hug before you go, right?”
I was okay (mostly) with her being gone over Christmas because a) Disney is her happy place b) our home with all the eldercare issues is not all that relaxing a place to be and c) making her stay would have only led to having a resentful teenager around over Christmas and who wants that?
What I’m not okay with is the idea that this mantel is complete without her. Therefore, while I didn’t get a picture of the original setup, the one that matters is this one, with its full complement of family members.