Saturday, December 25, 2004

Today she is edgey and curt with everyone, really a change in the normal weather for my daughter, and I wonder if it is a dissatisfaction with how much or what she got for gifts, the toll of exercised patience after four days of close full time proximity with the pesty brother, or just being overwhelmed.

Tonight I bring up this observation.
"I don't think I know what it is that is bothering me, but something seems wrong."
We talk some more, and I can see her chin quivering in the darkness.
"It started in the department store on Wednesday night. I just had this sudden feeling of emptiness." I ask where she feels this emptiness and she tells me it is in the pit of her stomach.
"But I don't really feel like probing into it very much."
I return to some thoughts I had thought to share with her a few days back, because I know this emptiness feeling well, how there can be so many gifts, so much food, so much and yet you feel...
"yes, lonely."
It doesn't do much good but I try and explain how gifts and food and family are expressions of love, but not love itself. For some they act as substitutes, in my family clearly they are symbols of true caring feelings, but there it is. I tell her that it is good for her to know this feeling inside herself, not to shut it out or deny it in the midst of all the other feelings. And that I love her more than any gift could ever represent. But I don't explain why she feels so alone because I am no expert. I am just now starting to probe that emptiness myself, and lately it sadly whispers that someday she will grow up and move onto sharing Christmas with her own family and I must survive this along with so many other ways of being alone.

I am thinking tonight that so much changes with time - every holiday with its losses and gains. All I can do is preserve the traditions and rituals that have some meaning or tender memory for me, do my best to create some fun and warmth, then let the holidays weave into their own tapestry for my children. I can't fill that hole inside them with anything I can put in a stocking or cookie, I can't make their lives ok by running out to buy batteries at 2, I can only listen and hope they find a voice inside that grounds them when they start to realize that even in the face of abundance all around, the only thing they really have is themselves.

I am thinking when she is 45, she will do this more gracefully than I do if she can already name it at 12.
For now it is enough for her to sleep the exhausted sleep of a Christmas night in the bedroom I share with her, the same bedroom I shared with my sister 40 years ago.

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