Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Holiday Blues

It is one of the many mysteries of grief that you can be laughing and busy and baking and noshing and--dare I say it?--even happy, yet get slammed with sadness seemingly out of nowhere. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time in the summer at the beach. And by a lot, I mean almost every day. I used to be (and still am) fascinated by waves. Watch waves long enough and you discover their pattern. One day, or hour, there might be a pattern of two small gentle waves and then one big curling one. Or several overlapping ones and then one solo perfect wave. This was important to figure out if you liked to ride the waves, which I did. I'd figure out the pattern to catch the best wave, then throw my Coppertone'd self into it headfirst. 
What does any of this have to do with grief, which really has no pattern and acts more like the rogue waves that used to knock me down and drag me to shore? Exactly that. As someone who likes patterns, to know the architecture of a book I'm writing or when someone will call every day, this inability to figure out grief's pattern frustrates me. I'm caught instead by those rogue waves. Like right now. 3:11 in the morning after a truly wonderful day cooking with Sam and wrapping presents with Annabelle, finally decorating our tree and house, a spur of the moment dinner party. Then finding myself an hour ago awake and unable to stop that rogue wave. Was it hanging Grace's tiny slipper on the tree? Or hearing about a boy her age who is now away at college? Or the loss of a friend's child that reminds me of what we've lost. I've come here into my knitting room, walking past a sleeping Annabelle, because it's one of my favorite places to be, hoping I can sleep among all this yarn and this stack of books waiting to be read, the mementos on the fireplace mantle and blue glowing light of the printer. But alas, I'm too knocked down for sleep, even here snuggled into the pink patterned bed linens and plethora of pillows that make this daybed perfect for napping and knitting and reading. So I'm thinking about waves. I'm remembering those long ago days at the beach, the sandy plums and quickly melting root beer Popsicles. The hot sun and salty breezes. The scratchy Navy blanket beneath my wet bathing suit. How carefully I'd study the waves! And oh that feeling of being lifted by a big wave, tumbled about, carried to shore. Despite my prowess at this game, at least once a day I'd get the wind knocked out of me. Perhaps that's why I'm thinking about waves on this eve of Christmas Eve. The holidays, with all their predictable pleasures and ability to lift us, also knock us down and take our breath away. Perhaps that's what I've learned tonight here alone in the dark. That rogue wave that is grief is going to come, and there's nothing to do but ride it to shore. 
Then stand up again, bruised and battered, and find the joy in a sandy plum, a dripping Popsicle. Or better yet, the sleeping people around you, the big messy glorious world outside your window.