Sometimes the Best we can do is Muddle Through

It never fails to hit me in the feels.
Judy Garland sings “Someday soon, we all will be together, if the fates allow (I try to hold on as my throat tightens). Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow (My eyes well with tears), so have yourself a merry little Christmas now (And I’m crying).”
Tears of remembrance. Tears of love. And a reminder of the time I tried so hard to make Merry I found catharsis in a movie theater on Christmas Day.
I think I’ve led with the punchline, so let me back up a bit.
For me, memories of childhood are wrapped up boxes of Time. Where we lived, what school, what grade, these are the nested boxes of my childhood. The ones that hold holiday memories are either labeled “Granny-Christmas” or not. For 29 years, long after I was a “child” by any stretch of the Santa-clause, my Christmases were categorized by “Do we have the grandparents for Thanksgiving this year or Christmas?”
I’d love to say that changed at 30 because I had my own family, or something exotic like I moved out of the country. The reality is, Mom died in June 2004, only a few weeks before my 30th birthday. My Grandfather had passed a few years before & my Grandmother was no longer able to travel. Honestly, Granny-Christmas wasn’t only out of the question; the whole of the holidays seemed fairly screwed.
Then, the other shoe dropped. Almost exactly 6 months after my mom, and just 2 weeks before Christmas, my mother’s sister passed away. I admit, it’s all still a little fuzzy in my mind. I asked my Dad recently, he also has no real memory of what we did that year. There was a trip to NH for my aunt’s funeral, but the memory box for that holiday is lost.
My one clear recollection is being in the car when I got the news about my aunt. I was on the way to Target to Christmas shop for my brother’s kids; when I got home that night I told my boyfriend those kids were getting the best Christmas ever. I’d shopped my grief. All I wanted was to find a way to bring a little joy.
The next year, 2005, I was determined we’d try to make new traditions. So I bought a really nice pre-lit tree and sent it to my dad. When I came down to WV from NYC we had a little tree trimming with a few of my college friends.
And then I convinced Dad to go see The Family Stone with me on Christmas. If you watch the trailer, it looks like a crazy-family comedy. It stars Diane Keaton, who was always one of Mom’s favorites (Dad’s too, I reckon). The entire cast is filled with actors we both liked, so what could go wrong? Well, for those who haven’t seen the movie, I’ll give you some highlights…
  • So, after you get the set-up where the uptight girlfriend meets free spirit family, we learn that Diane Keaton’s character – the mother of the Stone Family – has cancer.
  • And she’s dying.
  • There’s a scene where the grown daughter, who is pregnant, is crying watching Meet Me in St. Louis. It is just at the part where Judy sings Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. The father walks in and talks to her, comforts her. A small, sweet daddy/daughter moment.
  • At the end of the film finds the family a year later, and clearly Diane Keaton’s character has died. But life has moved on. Babies have arrived, love has been found, things are okay. Not the same. But that’s alright.
I mean – Seriously??!!!
There I was, bawling in a theater next to my Dad. I cried for what we’d lost, what we never had, and I cried in fear of what was to come. I cried because I’d ruined Christmas. Of course Dad summed it up with something like “Good movie, shite timing.”
Now here’s the thing that probably makes no sense: This is one of my favorite Christmas memories. Seriously, it’s in the Top 5. Not because it’s about one of my now favorite Christmas movies. But because Dad and I muddled through those first few Christmases without mom together. Somehow. One screwed up attempt at a time. A few years later he moved to Texas, and we spent his first Texas Christmas on the beach. (That’s another at the top of my list, but that’s because it was splendid.)
You know, it’s been several years now since we’ve been able to spend Christmas together. It’s Dad who doesn’t like to travel now. It’s hard to to make the trip from NYC to Texas with my little ones any time; I can’t imagine trying it for a few more years at the holidays. As the song goes, some day, if the Fates allow.
Until then, I’ll cherish all the holidays past, whether they glisten with glitter or tears.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yule tide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away
Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who were near to us
Will be dear to us once more
Someday soon, we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

One thought on “Sometimes the Best we can do is Muddle Through

  1. Awww, this is beautiful. Heart-wrenching, but beautiful.

    I just had someone tell me that I need to see The Family Stone. So weird you shared it in this post. I love the way your dad summed up the movie/experience. Hugs to you.

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop)!

    Wishing you a lovely evening.


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