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It’s the Friday before Christmas. The cookies are not baked. The tree is not decorated. The packages are not only not wrapped, they’ve not all been purchased. And it’s raining.

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All month long, it’s been cold and snowy, perfect December weather to get in the mood for festivities. I’ve been eager to get the tree up and start the Christmas-ing of the home. Ancient remodeling projects have dragged along for so long the space for the tree was not clear until just a couple days ago. So the tree is finally up and lighted, but ornaments are still in boxes. Now I’m tired and fighting off a cold.

I’ve had some blue Christmases. I’m right on the edge of another one.

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What many consider “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” can be melancholy if not downright painful for others. I get that. There were a few years in a row when I lost my grandparents, in-laws, favorite aunts and uncles. When the people who made your childhood special are absent, it’s hard to be cheerful. It is difficult to miss people you love when everyone around you seems to be happy.

I long to be a child again, when frosting cookies and decorating the tree were the only things to concern me. I want to skip around the pool table listening to Gene Autry with my brother and sister. I yearn to climb the hill behind our childhood home and sled down the snow. I ache to sit on Gram’s lap and write our own version of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

While I am wistful, I recognize that I am a composite of all the people I’ve loved and that they live not only in my memory, but in the little precious moments of teaching the nieces to bake Gram’s gingersnaps or sharing a smile at gatherings with family and friends. As long as we are laughing and loving, those who loved us are always with us.

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I think the expectation of perfection strikes hard at Christmas. Anything in life that’s not just the way I want it seems magnified. Getting lost in the bustle and trappings of the holiday tarnish what is dear about it; the singing of the carols, the lighting of the candles, the sharing of the traditions. So, I’m not sick, just tired. The nieces will be here to bake. The tree will get decorated. I’ll finish the shopping and wrapping. Christmas will come. It always does. And I will be happy.

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