Though it’s December 1 (i.e. the start of ABC Family’s “25 Days of Christmas” marathon…I know I’m too much of a Christmas cheermeister for my own good) and I watched childhood favorites, “Elf,” “Hook,” and “The Santa Claus,” I was not in a happy place today. I’ve been in Christmas mode since the beginning of November, but that doesn’t change the fact that the holidays haven’t felt festive or homely in two years. Throughout our time at UA, Carolyn and I had a blast decorating our college apartment with Christmas decor and laughing at silly seasonal comedies.
I realized this morning that Christmas just hasn’t been the same without her. Last year was off too. Ironically, warm states like Arizona and California remind me more of Christmas than DC and New York, both of which have a high probability of experiencing a White Christmas. Northern California, which is usually sunny on December 25, is all I know. That’s just what it comes down to.
Nothing rids you of Christmas spirit faster than a shaky phone call from a distressed neighbor in your hometown. This afternoon, the lady across the street from my childhood house called me up and asked whether my mom was out of town.
“Um, no, we just talked last night,” I said.
“Well, I haven’t been able to get a hold of her, and I found your dog running around on the front lawn,” she said.
Apparently, the newsworthy California windstorm was strong enough to wipe out power in my entire community. It also blew down my backyard fence, enabling little Roxy to explore the neighborhood.
When I heard that the dog got out, I started hyperventilating in Starbucks, mainly because I was worried something bad had happened to my mom in addition to the pup. It’s unusual for her not to answer her phone, and with all the damage associated with this bizarre natural disaster, I irrationally concluded that she was in grave danger. She phones me on a daily basis, so when she’s MIA, you know something’s not right.
Of course, she was in a business meeting all day and unable to chat, but I was concerned nonetheless. No one was picking up their phones, and I worried that the dog would be afraid in someone else’s house. I had a mini-panic episode on the subway ride home, as a million possibilities flashed through my head at once. It didn’t help that MTA has no phone service underground.
If’ it’s not already clear to you, I jumped to conclusions this evening. That’s the beauty and curse of writing: You can really get carried away with your imagination, which has the power to keep you up all night and trick you into believing it runs your life rather than the other way around. One thing happens and I picture dozens of follow-up events, each one more terrifying and dizzying than the last. All I could think of was: What if she’s not coming home? I’m not ready to be an orphan, even though I’m 23 and supposed to be old enough to handle this sort of situation.
That got me wondering about the concept of dying. At what age can we handle the death of our parents? When we marry? When we turn 35? When we reproduce? At 35? In the past, it wasn’t unusual for people to lose parents at a young age, as everyone had a shorter lifespan anyway, but times have changed since the 20s and 30s. As a member of the “emerging adulthood” generation, I’m nowhere near equipped to care for myself at this point. I could pull it off financially, but am simply not resilient enough to come out of something like that maintaining my upbeat nature.
It was quite a relief to hear from her, but it took me several hours to fully calm down. When I get really worked up or panicky, I require a recovery period to melt the knot in my chest and breathe normally again. In a nutshell, I felt very helpless being so far away from home when my family was in trouble. I have a little more than two weeks left in NYC before flying back to the bay, so I’ll be totally relieved to see everyone when I arrive at SFO.
Now that I’ve revealed even more of my neuroses to the world, I really do want some input from you guys. Do you think there is a magical age in which you’re ready for your parents to die? In my opinion, anything below 35 is too young, but it’s probably more about maturity level and perspective than age. With regards to myself, I’m nowhere near emotionally ready to endure the loss of another immediate family member for several years, so here’s to hoping and praying that I’ll be spared this kind of devastation for a very long time. It may seem odd that I’m rambling on and on about a morbid topic, but having seen so many people pass away with unfinished business, I understand exactly how precious each moment on earth is. Never forget that.