Some time over the summer the three of us were sitting in the living room.
“I used to hate holidays,” Maggie said.
“Why?” Kim asked.
“After Elena died,” Maggie said, “you guys would always cry.”
Not like that first year.
I don’t really count St Patrick’s Day. It was really more of an excuse to get the family together. We hosted it at our house so that it was different – we’d never hosted a St Patrick’s Day party.
That morning I made the coffee. I’d bought cream and whipped some of it and made Irish coffee with whiskey, a sugar cube, and cream topped with whipped cream. While Kim and I stood in the kitchen and drank our Irish coffee I put the corned beef in the pot to boil.
Kim and I had had Irish coffee at the Buena Vista in San Francisco on our trip out there the summer before we were married. That spring I’d shown up at her office with all the fixings to make Irish Coffee for her and the two women that worked in the office opposite.
Adelbert Hall had had a horrible fire and many of the offices had been relocated. Two women had been relocated across the hall from Kim and she often spent time talking with them. I think they said no to the whiskey and whipped cream and green food coloring – but Kim and I sat in her office and enjoyed a cup together.
That first St Patrick’s Day after Elena died I cooked a bunch of corned beef and cabbage and potatoes. We put out mustard and rye bread. We had plenty of beer and Irish Whiskey.
Kim’s family came over and so did friends of ours who had just suffered the death of a sibling. I think that was when his sister died. His sister, mom, and dad died not so far apart. It was not an easy couple of years for him.
We all cried a bit but it was so close to Elena’s death that it didn’t feel out of place.
Easter was different.
We went over to Kim’s parents like we always did. Except it wasn’t like always. It was just the three of us now. It hadn’t sunk in yet that it would always be just the three of us.
As it turned out, that’s not even true. It will never be more than the three of us. This year there are two.
We sat down to dinner.
A minute later, Kim excused herself and quietly left the table and went upstairs to her old room and started wailing.
I know what Maggie means when she said she hated holidays.
There was pain in that cry that I’ve never heard before.
I went upstairs and held her but there was nothing I could do. She calmed a bit and told me to go back down.
That was pretty much how that first year went. One of us would become inconsolable and the other would show support and then give space.
Over the years we got to the point where we’d tell stories about Elena at holidays and would smile instead of cry. Not to say that we never cried about Elena any more but holidays weren’t the trigger they once were.
Poor Maggie. Her holidays are about to suck again.
I’ve already roasted the first turkey for Thursday. Usually I break off a piece and walk into the living room and put it in Kim’s mouth.
“What do you think?” I ask.
“It’s really good,” she’d say.
“Want more?” I ask.
“No that’s ok.”
“Should I put some aside for dinner tonight?”
“That would be good.”
She’d look at me limping back to the kitchen. I always do something to my foot this time of year. “You should rest,” she’d call after me.
“Gotta make the soup.”
Usually I make a cream of mushroom soup and then use half of it for the green bean casserole. This year someone else is bringing the beans.
This year I carved the first Turkey and put the dark meat in one bag and the white meat in another. I strained the drippings to make gravy.
I started to cry.
It’s shocking how little yield you get from the bird.
Just these two little bags of meat from that big bird.
That’s not why I was crying. But it was. All that gives you just this?
Sorry Maggie. You’re going to hate the holidays this year.