Christmas before Mike

Before I started dating Mike, Christmas wasn’t a happy time for me. No holidays were.

In my family, holidays were occasions that magnified the underlying unhappiness of our family. Holidays were a reminder that our family was irreparably broken. That we were not as happy or perfect as we pretended to be.

They were days that we were forced to spend together because everyone else was spending the day with their family.  And we couldn’t go outside because it was too cold.  So we were trapped inside with a mother and father that didn’t get along. And that tension permeated everything. Even if there wasn’t an outburst or blatant fighting, I could feel the tension.  I knew something was wrong.

I got sick almost every Christmas. And almost everything Thanksgiving.  I’m sure it was all the stress built up in my body.  I remember being sick for a lot of holidays–fever, vomiting. Ironic for the girl that didn’t miss a day of school from 4th grade through high school graduation.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I got sick when I had to stay home for extended periods of time.

It wasn’t a happy occasion.  We didn’t really have traditions. Activities that are typically fun holiday traditions like decorating the tree were just chores for me because they were painful.

Of course there were good moments: when I got Barbie roller-skates, extended family Christmas parties where the boys got Hess trucks and the girls got China dolls. On Christmas Eve, my siblings and I all slept in the same room and read Christmas stories. We busted through stockings and presents within a half hour and spent the rest of the day playing with new toys and watching a new movie.

But overall I’d say I felt trapped.

I’m not sure how my siblings would describe Christmas at our house.  I wonder if their memories are as painful as mine.  If they have vivid memories. I really don’t remember the holidays.  I really don’t remember a lot from my childhood.

Christmas at Mike’s house was a very different experience. Starting with Thanksgiving, his dad’s favorite holiday, the Christmas season is Mike’s favorite time of the year. They’d all decorate the tree, listen to Christmas music, watch Christmas movies. It was definitely the most wonderful time of the year, a time of family, and joy.

So when Mike and I started dating, he shared his child-like awe and wonder and excitement about Christmas with me.  And over the years, Christmas has slowly become a happy time. A time to enjoy the company of family and friends, to slow down and take it all in. I know that in the years to come it’s only going to get better.


The Little Things: Christmas 2011 edition

Back in DC after a very busy but great holiday weekend with our families in PA.  Here’s a list of the little things that made this weekend great:

  • pulling up and seeing Christmas lights on my Dad’s house after years without them
  • the smell of a real tree
  • seeing It’s a Wonderful Life at the old Newtown Theater on Christmas Eve
  • waking up with my husband on Christmas morning
  • giving a great gift and the smiles that follow when it’s opened
  • sitting in front of the fire
  • Mike and I putting the finishing touches on Christmas dinner with perfect timing for serving
  • coffee in a Christmas mug
  • laughing with Mike’s parents
  • the huge smiles on my siblings’ and Dad’s faces while iceskating on Christmas day

  • seeing a picture of my mom and me from my wedding day hanging above her desk at work
  • holding hands while iceskating
  • seeing Mike back on skates after 3 years
  • good conversations with Mike’s cousins
  • the decision to bring cheesesteaks and hoagies to Dad’s to eat a chill dinner with everyone at home
  • seeing old friends at the annual Christmas and little hot-dog party, especially one I haven’t seen in a while

Meet Melissa

My sister Melissa is an all-around beautiful person.

I’ve always admired Melissa, the oldest of my three “little” sisters. Melissa has lots of good qualities: she’s funny, smart, strong, and honest.  She’s confident, patient, witty, and boy can she dance!

But of all Melissa’s good qualities, I’ve always been struck most by her kindness.  She has a big heart and is kind to everyone.  She’s warm and welcoming to all types of people. And she always wants the best for the people around her.

She’s always been my little sister.  I’m happy now that I can also call her my friend.

Happy 24th Birthday, Meliss!  I love you!

The Little Things: Fun in Florida

Just got back from visiting my sister Melissa in Florida. I loved the palm trees, the sunshine, the warm breeze, and being by the water.  I also loved the quality time with two of my sisters, their significant others, and Mike.

Inspired by Julie’s 50 Days of the Little Things, I’ve been thinking about simple things that make me smile for a while now.  Here’s the list of things the little things that made me happy this weekend:

  • painted nails
  • my husband’s sense of humor
  • long conversations with my sisters
  • mini-blueberry muffins with crumb topping
  • cuddling with the dogs
  • Newsies (did you hear it’s on Broadway now?!)
  • my SELF magazine subscription and how it always arrives just in time for my travels
  • holding hands
  • fresh orange juice
  • walking and talking with Melissa’s girlfriend
  • an afternoon nap

I’d love to know:

What little things made your weekend?

Happy Birthday, Boo!

This is my youngest sister Becca.

Our dad would sit her on his lap and lift her up in the air saying Becca. Boo! It didn’t take long for her to become Becca-boo, then Boo, and sometimes even Booey. We all call her this and so frequently that some of my high school friends called her that too.

I have a vivid memory of standing back by the washer, bundling her up to go play in the snow.  She had an emerald green jacket, magenta mittens on a string, and a purple hat under her hood. She was so happy and excited to go out in the snow and she was bundled up tight.  So tight that she looked like a marshmallow and could hardly walk. This is one of the most precious moments from my childhood. Just typing this makes me misty. I will always think of her as a sweet innocent little girl with a big smile.

Now Becca-boo is in college.  COLLEGE.  She’s studying math and physics.

But she’s always been smart: when we were younger she spilled my bottle of perfume and filled it up with water so I wouldn’t know (she was probably 6). I couldn’t even be mad when I found out because I thought it was genius.

And she’s an RA.

But she’s always been chatty:  when we shared a room growing up, I used to have to sing “my favorite things” from The Sound of Music so that she would fall asleep.

And she’s a good listener and gives good advice: once I got in a fight with Mike and said I didn’t want to tell my mom to which Becca responded “yeah, I read somewhere that you shouldn’t tell your mom about fights with your boyfriend because though you can get out your frustration in the bedroom, she never will.”  Haha. So true but also so funny coming from the little girl in the emerald coat.

And she’s 19 today!

Though I wanted her to be 5 years old forever, she keeps having birthdays. But instead of protesting her growing up, I’ll just admire her for the beautiful, strong, caring woman she’s grown to be and wish her a very happy birthday.

Happy Birthday, Boo! I love you!

PS–Check your mail for a belated b-day gift at the end of the week!

i want my mom

i fell asleep on the couch earlier and woke up thinking about my mom. now i’m just a crying mess thinking about how i miss her.  does anyone else daydream about sitting on the couch next to their mom and putting their head on her shoulder?  i just want to give her a hug, fall into her arms like a big baby, and have her tell me that i’m ok.

granted, i’m sure she’ll be a pain in my butt within the first 5 mins of seeing her next when she tells me that i should try a “normal comforter” next time instead of a duvet or asks if she can “make a suggestion” about the way my kitchen is arranged. it seems like she bothers me a lot when we’re together or on the phone though thankfully this has lessened since my wedding. this irritation has got to be a defense mechanism. like how before you go to away to college you start to think home is the worst place ever and can’t wait to get out and it makes the transition less hard. like if she’s a complete pain in the you-know-what, i won’t think about how much i miss her. it has to be. because i miss her. so much.

oh, by the way, it was her birthday this week.  send belated happy birthday thoughts her way!

do you miss your mom? if so, or if not, call her and tell her you love her. she’ll be glad to hear from you.

and now that i have a headache from sobbing like a baby and it’s way past my bedtime, i should go to bed.


labor day in ocean city, md

we had a nice long weekend in ocean city, md with mike’s parents, his brother, and his brother’s girlfriend, gayle.  we stayed in a beautiful ocean-view condo right on the boardwalk. the weather was perfect: sunny and warm (but not hot) with a nice breeze.

we enjoyed the sun, the sand, and the boardwalk food.

highlights of weekend include drinks with dave and gayle on the boardwalk, my first fried oreo, reading a few chapters of pillars of the earth without falling asleep, multiple icre-cream cones, sweet corn on the cob, and dinner at uncle george’s house on the bay.

we all wished we had one more day but mother nature made it  a little bit easier for us to leave when she brought a cool rain this morning.

mama’s song

this song made me cry almost every time i heard it during my engagement.  even now i can’t help but belt the words when i hear it.  it sums up how i feel towards two very special people in my life:  my mom and my husband.

walking her down the aisle

father daughter things always get me.  the folgers commercial, the subaru commercial, when ariel leaves her dad at the end of “the little mermaid” and says “i love you, daddy” and then the music swells.  yep, all of that brings me to tears.  so it’s no surprise that this scene had me in tears on the metro.

it was a few weeks after we got engaged and i was on the elevator with a man and his daughter.  she couldn’t have been more than a year and a half.  she said “sing it daddy” and he said “no, you sing it” and they went back and forth a few times before she started singing the song from sesame street and her father laughed with joy and surprise “i didn’t know you knew the song.”

of course, tears are welling up in my eyes as i watch this as they still do now as recall this scene over a year later.  i wanted to say to him “enjoy this time.  before you know it, she’ll be my age and you’ll be walking her down the aisle.”

walking her down the aisle