A Second Christmas Without Kim

About a month ago Maggie asked if we’d be getting a tree this year.

“Of course,” I said.

Kim and I were entangled in each other’s holidays.

I didn’t light Chanukah candles for the first time in twenty-some years because Kim wasn’t here.

That’s silly. I’m Jewish – she was Catholic but it was this difference that encouraged us to celebrate our respective traditions.

The Catholic traditions were hers and the girls. The Jewish traditions were mine and the girls. But we were each there to support the other in their celebrations.

I always went with Kim to buy the tree. I always paid for it. I always carried the boxes filled with ornaments downstairs so that she could decorate and carried them upstairs when she was done.

Kim or her mother always bought the candles each year. Kim carefully put the menorah away when the holiday was over and took it out in time for the first night.

I just didn’t feel like lighting candles this year.

It could have been Kim.

It could have been the political climate.

In some ways, I needed to light the candles more than ever this year as a reminder of what the holiday stands for. Of opposing occupation and oppression and of the miracles that can happen when you stand up for what’s good and right.

But somehow I couldn’t.

Somehow I didn’t.

As the time got closer, Maggie asked if I was sure about the tree. How would there be time to pick one up and decorate it.

I already brought the ornament boxes downstairs, I told her.

I’ve packed the tree base in the car and will bring it when I come to pick you up from college. We’ll stop on the way home.

She stopped to tell me she would have never thought ahead like that.

Maggie decorated the tree the day after we got home. She picked out a great tree and took so much care to make it look really nice – nicer than it’s ever been.

There’s an “E” near the top. I never noticed it before. Last night I was sitting on the radiator trying to get warm and I noticed a “K” in the back.

I asked Maggie about them.

She told me we had all four letters.

I never knew.

I searched and found the “D” and the “M”.

All four letters. I never knew.

Maggie and I exchanged gifts Christmas morning.

Well, not Christmas morning. More like early afternoon once she got up.

She got me coasters of Monet’s Water Lillies from Kim’s favorite museum – L’orangerie.

The second Christmas without Kim.

The twelfth without Elena.

After we open presents I stop at the cemetery to see their graves.

There’s a wreath by Kim’s grave. Someone has taken the tree that my in-laws placed at Elena’s grave.

It’s cold – so cold – at the cemetery.

I go to my in-laws for Christmas dinner and then back home.

I turn on the lights on our tree.

You know once you’ve seen something how they are the first thing you notice?

I see the four letters.

I see the ornaments that Kim bought at different times in our lives. I see the ornaments she brought to our marriage. I see the ornaments she bought for me, to include me in her tree, in those first years of our marriage. I see the ornaments she bought for the girls. I see the ornaments that Maggie bought for Kim and the ones I bought for them.

Are we getting a tree?

Of course.

It’s filled with Kim and Elena and Maggie and me.

One letter for each.

And more memories than you can mention.

Published in: on December 27, 2017 at 10:43 am  Comments (1)