When tradition is a four-letter word

November 25, 2011

Mi Vida Loca

I had no intention of putting up any holiday decorations this year. Though I’ve had my apartment since the beginning of August, I still only have what I could carry by myself when I moved in. Most of my other stuff (the little I have) is in storage. So to say my place is bare and un-lived in, is an understatement.

During a trip to Walgreen’s this afternoon I wandered into the Christmas aisle. I looked around, and quickly walked away filled with an unexplained sadness. As I wandered the rest of the store looking for the items I needed I thought to myself, “Why so sad?” A few minutes later, as I walked by the aisle again, it hit me: I missed having the holiday spirit I grew up with and had no idea where it had gone.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and as has become my tradition, I spent it at home. I wasn’t sad, in fact I was thankful for the time to myself. But spending the day alone wasn’t always my tradition. My traditions before the last few years were ones shared with my family. We would have a huge meal made by Mom, then the day after we put up our Christmas decorations, many left over from our childhood. The weeks that followed were spent preparing. Mom’s birthday is on Christmas day, so unlike most of our friends who celebrated on Christmas Eve, we saved our celebration until then.

Though we rarely had much money, we were able to create so many memories that I could recount with laughter and yes, even sadness today.

I don’t know when it all changed. I’m sure it was a slow progression of events. Mom converted to a religion that doesn’t believe in the celebrating of such holidays. Forced to go it on our own, my sisters and I were a bit lost. Whose house? Who is cooking what? They weren’t difficult questions to answer, but perhaps in our sense of loss, they were just too heavy to consider without a sense of sadness and maybe anger at the fact that life as we knew it had changed.

In the ensuing years we have, on occasion, managed to get it together for at least one of the holidays–sans Mom, of course– but have yet to establish the new traditions we quietly long for.

So today, as I passed the Christmas aisle again, I bravely walked in again. I said to myself, “Fuck it. Fuck what no longer exists. Today is  a new day.” I searched and searched for something, anything, to start over with. I considered a stocking, a door hanger, even a snow globe, but thinking about it that ONE item placed in my already empty apartment would seem more lonely than cheerful. Then a sign, a literal one, lights on sale.

YES! Christmas lights have always made me happy. And so I bought them and couldn’t wait to get them up. As I finished the task, I stood back just watching them glow and knew that though life has changed and the holidays of my past may never return, it’s up to me to build the holidays of the future. After all, every tradition began with one simple act.

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About Libby

Libby Juliá-Vázquez is a writer and communications professional, living life in Chicago, one random moment at a a time.

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6 Comments on “When tradition is a four-letter word”

  1. toosoxy Says:

    When I first lived on my own- college- I decorated like crazy. Now I take this pink fake table tree out of a box that conveniently still has ornaments on it from last year (i am that lazy), put it on my coffee table and that’s kind of it. I should put up lights. I’m in a fancy adult townhouse. Fancy adults so put up window lights. Maybe you will inspire me.

    Reply

  2. Lucy Says:

    You’ve inspired me. I had a couple off beat Christmas holidays in the past couple years and have lost my Cristmas mojo, as I call it. This year shall be different. I’m pimping out my tiny matchbox apartment with holiday cheer! I will even ensure my two living room windows get jazzed up with lights.

    Reply

  3. Carrie at TikiTikiBlog! Says:

    F-it, indeed.

    As adults, we sometimes have to create new traditions for ourselves.
    You just did that. You claimed your life, your tradition, your own self.

    Merry Christmas…and may your lights always shine bright. No matter the season.

    Reply

  4. NicolleMK Says:

    Yay for Christmas lights! Your windows look great! I’ve always liked decorating. When I was living by myself during college, I put a lit garland around my bannister and hung my favorite ornaments from it (yes, I took MY ornaments from the box of my mom’s Christmas decorations. lol).

    Reply

  5. Libby Says:

    Thanks for the comments, all! I’ve added a few more decorations both holiday and not and feel like my house is finally becoming my home.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 5 steps to letting go of the life you NEVER had | Moments in My Head - December 6, 2012

    [...] this time of year I get very nostalgic for the holidays of my past. For the days when my Mom’s religion didn’t prevent her from celebrating her Christmas [...]

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