It seems that holidays get sadder as we age. Whether you’ve lost someone you love, endured divorce or any other devastating family change, or simply long for the sweet memories of yesterday-- the holidays sting a little for most. A lot for me.
I think that’s normal. We live, love, lose, and remember. It’s life, and it’s bittersweet. But we’ve also lost our way, and in doing so, we’ve lost the spirit of why we really celebrate holidays in the first place. We rush, we race, we scowl, we complain. We have even normalized shopping on Thanksgiving.
Case and point: I dragged myself to the grocery store today, not without a tinge of guilt for patronizing any establishment open on the one day we should all be with family. I waited in line behind a woman checking herself out while bellowing at an employee a few rows down (who, let’s remember, is working on the holiday) to bring her some reusable bags. Just as the bags arrived the shopper asked me to move out of her way so she could get out of line to find the right bread crumbs. Apparently she had the wrong breadcrumbs. I acquiesced, despite her obnoxious request. Without a hint of humor she barked, “I know, I know, I am such a pain in the ass.” I looked at her and flatly replied “I didn’t say a word to you.” She sniped back: “Your face says it all.”
Ah yes, my face. Well since you brought it up, let me tell you what my face says today in particular: My face says I wish I was not at the god-damned grocery store on Thanksgiving- buying eggs and bread to make a pitiful meal for myself-because I cannot bear to celebrate the holiday without my son, my son who died before he got to ever host his own holiday meal or celebration.
My face, taught with anxiety, furrowed brows and lips pursed together really hard so that I won’t cry in this aisle trying to conjure up specific memories of the last Thanksgiving my son and I had together, for fear that time will erase them, my face says I am in pain. My face says this really fucking sucks. My face says I am in agony. But by all means, go grab your breadcrumbs.
Don’t feel sorry for me. I chose to be alone today. I received many lovely offers to join the people who love me. The people who know what my face really says. But I am just too sad. Too crushed. And I need to be alone today. What I did not need today was the vile sordidness of an entitled shopper in search of the perfect bread crumb. But who knows, maybe you too are spending the holiday with only the company of your own sorrow. And if that’s true, I hope your breadcrumbs help a little, much the way I’m hoping my eggs and toast will.
Instead of saying anything else, or karate chopping her, which is generally frowned upon, or letting her see me cry, I quietly moved my face to another aisle that was not a self check-out. The cashier smiled as she scanned my eggs and bread, and I thanked her for being so pleasant. I told her I was sorry that she had to work on the holiday, partly because of shoppers like me. She smiled again, and wished me a Happy Thanksgiving. Not possible, I thought. But I appreciated the kind sentiment.
We live, love, lose--some lose the most precious gifts of all. We cling to the memories of moments that mattered most. It’s life, and it’s bittersweet. Really bitter and really sweet. But let's not lose our way, let's not forget the spirit of why we really celebrate holidays in the first place. And at the risk of sounding super cliched, let's try to be nicer humans. It’s really not that hard. And oh yeah, never assume that you can read a person by her face. Especially at the holidays.